Port of Dover warns EU border system has lasting “negative impacts”

Managers are optimistic about their companies despite being hit by supply chain disruption caused by Brexit, a survey of top executives at mid-sized British businesses has found.

The Port of Dover and ferry companies have warned of “serious and lasting negative impacts” if the EU’s new border IT system is implemented this autumn.

It said if the current plans go ahead “communities, businesses and authorities” would suffer.

Under the delayed Entry Exit System, people entering the EU will have to register fingerprints, a photo and passport details.

Long queues have also been predicted.

Juxtaposed border controls mean French border police check passports as people leave the UK to cross the Channel from Dover, London St Pancras and Folkestone.

There have been warnings for more than a year that this could cause very long queues, because of the extra time registration will take.

In joint written evidence to the European Scrutiny Committee, the Port of Dover, DFDS, Irish Ferries, and P&O Ferries said there was an “existential risk facing critical supply chains, businesses, communities, and the tourism economy of nations on both sides of the Channel from the current lack of appropriate regime for the introduction of the EU Entry Exit System (EES)”.

They said there would be a “severe” impact on Dover’s ferry business because the system “would not be capable of processing current car and coaches volumes”.

Evidence from a range of affected businesses, business groups and councils was published by the committee on Thursday.

Kent and Ashford councils both cautioned that queues for tourists had been “quoted as a reasonable worst case of up to 14 hours”. They did not give a source for that assessment.

Ashford Borough Council’s written evidence said “such queues will create welfare concerns for passengers as well as having a significant effect on the local communities, specifically the towns of Dover, Folkestone and Ashford”.

Tourism organisation Visit Kent told the committee it was concerned the EES would disrupt the local economy.

Eurostar – which has previously warned of the issues EES could pose – also said implementing it would be a “unique challenge”, adding the system was designed for airports rather than constrained city centre terminals.

Getlink, which operates the Channel Tunnel, said the EES would add five to seven minutes to the overall journey time of passengers using the it.

Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, Sir William Cash, said the evidence put forward “paints an alarming picture of the possible risks surrounding the Entry-Exit System’s implementation.

“Clearly, this policy could have a very serious impact, not only for tourists and travel operators but also for local businesses,” he said.

“I implore decision makers on both sides of the Channel to take note of this evidence. The scheme is due to be implemented in October this year; the clock is ticking, and these issues must be urgently addressed”, Mr Cash added.

The boss of Dover has previously said that the government should press for a solution where registration could be completed away from the port.

A spokesperson for the prime minister said there were “tried and tested contingency plans in place” and that it was working “closely with the French and all the port authorities to ensure that travellers and passengers do not experience any unnecessary delays”.