UK arrivals at the French border will have to wait twice or three times as long to be processed for entry, once new EU checks for third countries are introduced, says a new French report.
1. Online registration
The findings come from Cour des Comptes, the French public finance watchdog. The body expects processing times to double or triple, despite an order by French authorities for nearly 550 data kiosks and 250 tablets which will avoid the need to manually stamp passports and enable voyagers from the UK to register themselves on the EU Entry/Exit System (EES).
The British chose to be treated as a third country by EU nations when they voted in favour of leaving the EU in the Brexit referendum in 2016. This means they must undergo the same checks when entering the zone as all other non-EU countries.
The digital registration process does not remove the fact that passenger biometrics and documents will all need to be registered the first time a Brit enters the Schengen area, and passports will need to be checked by border staff. Admin for subsequent trips should easier as travellers will only need to scan passports when they enter the EU again.
2. Two extra minutes per passenger
This “initial registration” however has been shown in trials to add at least two minutes per passenger to the entry process, whether people enter by air or sea. When multiplied by thousands of arrivals, ports, train stations and airports could soon see the queues backing up.
The Cour des Comptes has warned that France could lose its role as a key arrivals hub because greater numbers of travellers could choose to travel by plane and fly over the continent for their vacation to avoid potential disruption.
Even though the average check time has [already] increased since Brexit for Eurostar, doubling or even tripling waiting time[s] could drive some travellers to opt for a planeThe Cour des Comptes
3. Bad for everyone
As well as being bad for the French economy, pushing people onto longer plane journeys is environmentally unsound.
Speaking to The Telegraph, Paul Charles, chief executive PC Agency travel consultancy agrees with the Cour: “Getting into Europe needs to be more seamless, not more cumbersome.” He added:
The processing of passengers, whether at our ferry ports, at St Pancras or on arrival at a European airport, will have to be much faster otherwise peak periods will become unbearable for those stuck in ever-longer queues.Paul Charles, chief executive PC Agency travel consultancy
Horrific queues have already been experienced by holidaymakers at border points since Brexit. Trials have suggested that the new entry system could add two minutes to each person passing through the border, whether arriving by air or sea.
4. What Brexit campaigners demanded
Simon Calder, travel expert and correspondent for The Independent, has been scathing about what pro-Brexit campaigners expected. He highlights that the EU’s Entry/Exit System was already a known quantity when the Brexit debate was happening. The EU was proposing smart EES borders back in 2015 and the measure was formally adopted in 2016. In some ways it is only luck that delays have pushed its introduction back to 2025.
Calder also points out that “hard frontiers” are exactly what the UK government asked the EU for during post-Brexit-vote negotiations.
The queues seen since we demanded all British passports must be checked and stamped should not be a surprise for anyone – and when fingerprinting and facial biometrics become mandatory the process will become even tougherSimon Calder, travel expert and correspondent for The Independent
“I am curious what solutions ministers had in mind when they campaigned for Brexit. But at least the French seem to be taking the potential problems seriously.”