Lord Peter Ricketts, who was the British Ambassador to France between 2012 and 2016 and now sits in the House of Lords, said he fears that a combative start to Liz Truss’ premiership is likely to make travel problems worse next year.
The year 2023 marks the delayed launch of two new EU travel systems – the EES entry and exit system and the ETIAS tourist visa system – both of which are likely to increase the time it takes to check passports at the border.
Lord Rickets said: “I think the EES, in particular, will be massively disruptive at the Channel ports and there is simply no goodwill on a political level between France and the UK to solve these problems.
“We saw this at the start of the summer with the problems at Dover, there was no doubt blame on both sides but it really comes down to the fact that passport checks take longer since Brexit and there is no point blaming France for that.
“When you have these problems it all depends on goodwill from both sides to resolve them, and it seems that is in short supply between France and the UK.”
The EES system – scheduled to come into force in May 2023 – is a way of keeping track of visitors within the EU and will apply at all external Schengen borders, while ETIAS – scheduled for November 2023 – is a €7 travel visa for tourists.
You can find a full explanation of what it all means HERE.
While the EES system mean a few seconds of extra time on passport scanning at airports and Eurostar, it is expected to be particularly disruptive at ferry ports and the Channel Tunnel because the plans – as envisaged by the EU at this stage – mean that groups travelling in cars would have to get out of the car to have their passports scanned and provide facial scans and fingerprints.
This would massively increase the time it takes to process each car and could lead to more long tailbacks at UK ports like Dover and Folkestone.
Making the problem yet worse is the extremely tense state of UK-France relationships, which show no sign of thawing under the UK’s new Prime Minister Liz Truss.
Lord Ricketts: “The relationship between the UK and France is pretty bad and I see no signs that it will improve.
“Liz Truss’ comment about Emmanuel Macron, refusing to say whether he was friend or foe, was pretty shocking. It was a ridiculous thing to say, of course France is a friend, and Macron’s response I thought was elegant.
“But it’s also her complete inability to say anything positive about the EU that has definitely been noted across Europe and it seems likely that we are heading for a confrontation between the UK and the EU over the Northern Ireland Protocol.
“And of course these things all filter down to the daily co-operation that is needed between countries.
“I’d say on a personal level co-operation between France and the UK is good, every day there is co-operation between border forces, military, businesses, but on a political level it is not good.”