The Home Secretary has insisted that reported 12-hour queues at the Port of Dover are not a consequence of Brexit. Suella Braverman told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge: “I don’t think it’s fair to say this is an adverse effect of Brexit” as she was questioned over the “critical incident” that was declared at the port this weekend.
Many passengers have reported that the long waits are partly due to every passport needing to be checked – a post-Brexit measure.
Ms Braverman added: “We’ve had many years now since leaving the European Union and there’s been, on the whole, very good operations and processes at the border.”
Extra sailings were being put in place overnight with hopes of clearing the backlog by lunchtime today after the incident was declared last Friday.
Ms Braverman attributed the issues to “acute times” that put “a lot of pressure crossing the Channel,” and urged everyone to “be a bit patient.” Later, speaking to BBC‘s Laura Kuenssberg, she said it was down to “bad weather” and insisted the situation would not repeat itself.
She said: “I really sympathise with families and schoolchildren who are trying to get to France for their Easter holidays. Nobody wants to be waiting hours overnight at Dover in a coach.”
Asked if it was something that would happen every school holiday, Braverman responded: “Not at all. In recent years things have been operating very smoothly at the border … We’ve got a particular combination of factors that have occurred at this moment of time.”
The Port of Dover’s chief executive Doug Bannister previously stated that Brexit was causing longer wait times at the border.
He told the Observer: “There will be improvements which are made. People will get slicker at reading passports, get slicker at lodging paperwork and checking paperwork. But we are in a different trading regime.”
By Sunday morning the port estimated some travellers could still face waits of up to eight hours, depending on the ferry operator.
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A port spokesman said: “The additional sailings have assisted in clearing some of the traffic, although currently both DFDS and P&O have two full lanes of coaches in the port before French border controls, with a processing time of about 4.5 hours. P&O have some coaches waiting at the cruise terminal and DFDS have some at service stations in Kent.
“Once coaches are processed in an operator’s lane, more are being sent to the port. Currently, the estimated total time is six to eight hours dwell time.”
Shadow levelling up secretary Lisa Nandy said the delays could have been avoided by the government “doing their actual job.”
She told Sophy Ridge On Sunday that ministers had “known for a very long time that they needed to make sure that there were resources in place to deal with additional paperwork checks”.
Ms Nandy added: “The point is not whether we left the European Union or not. The point was that we left with a Government that made big promises and once again didn’t deliver.
“I really feel for the families that are trying to get away for a Easter break, people who have been caught up in this chaos, people whose livelihoods are threatened. It didn’t need to be this way.
“If the Government got a grip, got down to brass tacks and started doing their actual job, all these things could be avoided.”
P&O Ferries apologised to customers on Sunday and later tweeted that by 3pm there was an initial wait of four hours, during which the advance passenger information (API) border check would be completed, before coaches were moved to a buffer zone ahead of boarding a ferry, where there was a delay of around six hours.