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The Independent UK
The Independent UK
Neil Lancefield

Channel Tunnel boss: New EU scheme designed without any consideration for Dover

PA Wire

An incoming border system feared to cause major delays for UK holidaymakers at Dover was designed “without any consideration” for cross-Channel travel, MPs heard.

John Keefe, chief corporate and public affairs officer at Getlink, which operates the Channel Tunnel, said it will be difficult to process passengers in cars and coaches once the European Union’s Entry/Exit System (EES) is introduced.

The launch of the scheme has been repeatedly delayed and there is speculation it will not come into force until after the Paris Olympics in summer 2024.

The system is expected to involve travellers from non-EU countries such as the UK having their fingerprints scanned and a photograph taken to register them on a database the first time they enter a member state.

This scheme was designed for airports
— John Keefe, Getlink

There are concerns this will cause long queues for train and ferry passengers travelling from Dover as border checks for people entering the EU are carried out there before they embark on their cross-Channel journeys.

This is in contrast to flights, which will involve passengers’ details being taken at destination airports.

The Port of Dover already suffers from long queues at peak periods due to French border officials carrying out enhanced post-Brexit checks.

Giving evidence to the Commons’ European Scrutiny Committee, Mr Keefe said: “This scheme was designed for airports, quite simply without any consideration for the nature of transport that happens across the Channel.

“For a one ticket, one seat, one person approach in a large indoor environment where there is space to put both kiosks for the data capture and also additional space for border officials, it’s easy.

“Where it struggles is when cars drive through large open spaces – car parks – in all weathers, in all lights, at all times of the day or night.

This new regulation that's coming in has got a potential large strategic impact on the health and prosperity of the nation
— Doug Bannister, Port of Dover chief executive

“The data capture has to look at individuals who are deep inside a vehicle. That then becomes very complicated.

“The scheme is not designed for the purpose it’s being addressed to. It’s designed for comfortable airports in EU territory.”

Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister, who has previously warned EES could increase the time it takes to process a car from around 90 seconds to 10 minutes, described EES as a “critical” issue which could affect “the health of the nation”.

He told the committee: “Half of our freight traffic is destined north of London. It is impossible to imagine levelling up the country if the Short Straits is not working well.

“This new regulation that’s coming in has got a potential large strategic impact on the health and prosperity of the nation.

“That’s why we feel it is so important.”

Mr Bannister added that in the past six months “demonstrable progress” has been made by Government officials showing a “willingness to engage” with France and the EU Commission in an attempt to minimise disruption from EES.

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