Dover: Lorry drivers seen confronting border police
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The rules, which are due to come into force in April, apply to vehicles entering the EU’s passport-free Schengen Area. The biometric checks involve electronic gates – meaning that drivers are forced to leave their vehicles rather than remain in their cars or lorries, as they are currently able to do with a simple passport check. Responding to the announcement, Kent MPs wrote a letter to the Government warning that there was a danger of “large scale traffic disruption in Kent … on a continual basis”.
According to the MPs, the disruption would be on a similar scale to if France closed the border, saying that the plans were more suited to airports than seaports.
Meanwhile, the Port of Dover, Getlink and the Logistics UK group have called on the Government to open talks with Brussels and Paris on how to avoid major queues and iron out the issues.
They said the new measures pose “an imminent and serious threat” to the “well-established frictionless and free-flow operations” at Dover, adding: “All effort must be devoted to maintaining these in the national economic interest.”
The groups also said that prolonged disruption may damage the image of “Global Britain” and jeopardise our economic recovery from the pandemic.
Port authorities have also warned the Government that Dover would need new infrastructure in order to handle the new border checks.
The checks would take place on UK territory by French police, under a bilateral death with Paris.
This style of check is currently carried out on people using the channel tunnel or coming over on ferries from Dover but there is not yet an agreed system for how it would work when carried out on people driving vehicles.
The entry-exit system is meant to monitor all non-EU travellers entering the Schengen Area, requiring them to register a digital identification profile at checkpoints and undergo a biometric check.
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The Port of Dover, which processes £144billion of freight each year, accounts for a third of all UK trade with the EU, rising to nearly 60 percent if other routes in the region – such as the Channel Tunnel – are included.
Dover, Getlink and Logistics UK warned that any supply chain disruptions would impact the motor industry significantly, as it is dependent on the most seamless supply chains possible.
Responding to the letter, the Department for Transport said that the Government would “work constructively” to “minimise checks” at the border.
However, how the checks will be implemented will ultimately be up to the French authorities, governed by EU law.
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Delays at Dover would also have a knock-on effect on EU imports to the UK because it would soak up freight capacity.
This comes amid growing tensions between France and the UK over the simmering fishing row, concerning post-Brexit fishing licences for French fishermen.
Further talks between British and EU officials were held in Brussels on Monday, as the two sides enter into their sixth week of negotiations.
French Europe Minister Clement Beaune urged the EU to back Paris more strongly in the dispute.
France had previously threatened sanctions – such as disruptions to customs checks on UK goods at ports, and limiting the electricity supply to Jersey – unless the dispute was resolved.
Speaking at an event hosted by Politico, Mr Beaune said: “We are not there yet but there is still hope.
“We are not naive. We still have all options on the table including these measures.
“We would prefer to have it at the EU level.
“If nothing happens at the EU level, we will take French measures.”
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