Tuesday, November 29, 2022

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Trials for a new EU border system that could lead to ‘persistent disruption’

Technology tests for a new border system feared to cause major delays for British holidaymakers will take place this month.

Doug Bannister, chief executive of the Port of Dover, Kent, told MPs he had been invited to Calais, France, to watch tests for the European Union’s Entry/Exit System (EES).

He said the port has not received details of the scheme’s rules, but raised concerns it could cause “significant and ongoing disruption for a very long time”.

EES is scheduled to be introduced in May 2023.

Travelers from non-EU countries such as the UK are expected to have their fingerprints scanned and photographed upon their first entry into a member state in order to register them in a database.

Asked by the Commons’ Transport Select Committee what passengers need to do, Mr Bannister replied: “There is a constant dialogue going on between officials from our government and French officials.

“There will be a trial of a new technology that we have been invited to witness in Calais over the next few weeks.

“So I know activity is ongoing, but as I sit before the panel today we don’t have that answer.”

If EES is implemented it will impact the Port of Dover as outbound travelers pass through French border controls before boarding the ferries.

Mr Bannister said: “It will have a bigger impact on families looking to go abroad next summer.”

He told the committee “we haven’t seen the process,” but expressed concern that the time it takes to process a car is between about 90 seconds and 10 minutes.

He said: “We’ve heard that there might be a technology that’s like an iPad with handles to enroll fingerprints.

“But we haven’t tried it. How do you run this around a car? What happens if a child sleeps in the back seat?

“What if it’s a dark, stormy night and the lighting isn’t adequate? We didn’t test any of that.”

He added: “We need to know the rules of the game.

“We have to see what the technology will be, we need sufficient time to test, test and train this technology before implementation.”

Tens of thousands of families had their holiday plans ruined by miles of traffic jams around the port of Kent in July.

This has been attributed to a lack of French border police.

Asked what steps have been taken to avoid a return of chaos, Mr Bannister told MPs: “We expect to have earlier warning if they are unable to reach the appropriate resources.

“Then we can put one of the contingency plans in place on our side to try and do traffic management.”

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