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UK, France trade blame over Dover traffic chaos

July 23, 2022

British and French authorities have both claimed the other side is responsible for holidaymakers facing long delays at the UK port of Dover. But the main culprit appears to be Brexit.

Cars standing in queues at the port in Dover
People wanting to cross the Channel from England to France by ferry need a lot of patienceImage: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire/dpa/picture-alliance

Thousands of holidaymakers seeking to reach the European mainland have been confronted with massive traffic jams outside the UK port of Dover for a second day on Saturday.

The delays come as customs officials carry out border checks that were reintroduced after Britain left the European Union last year, ending free movement for people and goods between the UK and the European continent. Passengers have to go through both UK and French border checks at Dover before boarding ferries to northern France.

Although there have been long queues of trucks at the port seen since Brexit occurred, the situation has been exacerbated by the large numbers of people wanting to holiday abroad in the first summer in three years without pandemic travel restrictions.

Some people were reported to have waited six hours or longer to catch their ferries.

Who is being blamed for the traffic delays?

The British foreign minister, Liz Truss, accused French authorities of not providing enough personnel to staff the customs checkpoints.

"This is a situation that has been caused by a lack of resource at the border. That is what the French authorities need to address and that is what I'm being very clear with them about," she told reporters in Kent, southeast England.

The chief executive of the Port of Dover, Doug Bannister, at first also made the same claim but later admitted that there were "increased transaction times" owing to the post-Brexit increase in border controls.  

That was also the defense put forward by French lawmaker Pierre-Henri Dumont, whose constituency includes the French Channel port of Calais.

He told BBC television that the traffic jams were an "aftermath of Brexit."

"We have to run more checks than before," he told BBC television, and predicted that the current chaos was likely to repeat itself.

The prefect of the Hauts-de-France region, Georges-Francois Leclerc, said France had "done its job" by increasing its border staff in Dover from 120 to 200.

General travel chaos

Travelers heading for the Eurotunnel service at nearby Folkestone were also facing delays, with 3.2-km (2-mile) queues before the entrance.

Eurotunnel said its train shuttle services for vehicles between Folkestone and Coquelles in northern France were two hours behind schedule.

In recent weeks, British airports have also seen chaotic scenes amid a shortage of personnel following pandemic layoffs.

Industrial action has periodically disrupted railway travel in the country as well.  

tj/wd (Reuters, AFP)