Blog: The worst queues are yet to come for holidays to Europe, unless we work with the EU – iNews

Travel in Europe after Brexit: The worst is yet to come, unless we work with the EU to handle border queues

UK holidaymakers will need to meet new entry system rules from next year, which could lead to more delays – especially for ferry passengers

July 29, 2022 3:43 pm(Updated 6:24 pm)

Back in February 2019, before the chief Brexit negotiator David Frost had set the gas mark on the sort of oven-ready deal he would cook, an industry boss upbraided me over an investigation I had just published. He accused me of putting out the “worst scare stories about Brexit”.

That investigation was titled: “UK holidaymakers could face queues several hours long in the event of no-deal Brexit”. You can see where this is going. To Dover.

Last weekend, travellers queued for hours to cross by ferry to France. Holidaymakers have also been reporting hours-long queues at Malaga and Alicante airports during peak periods for months. This was always going to happen. You only had to do the maths.

In 2019, it was estimated that if we chose to become third-country nationals (and we did), the border checks would add an additional 90 seconds for each UK passport holder. That is for potential questions about the purpose of your trip whether you have enough money and to stamp your passport.

It doesn’t sound much. Just 90 seconds. But then add the numbers up. It would take a single passport lane an extra 17,010 seconds (nearly five hours) to process the 189 passengers on a single Ryanair flight, if all were UK passport holders and all were checked. At some Spanish airports, 10 planes from the UK land in a single hour.

So far, EU countries have been relaxed about checking UK passport holders. They have stamped passports but asked few questions. That will change in 2023, when the Entry and Exit System (EES) and Etias visa are introduced for non-EU citizens. It will lead to more questions, checks and delays.

The EES requires non-EU nationals to be fingerprinted and photographed at the border. That does mean UK nationals can use e-gates, but getting your fingers and face in the right place will be as slow as a guard stamping your passport.

And that’s just airports. No one knows for sure how this will work at ferry ports. France is considering plans to collect fingerprints and other biometric data from passengers using computer tablets at UK channel crossings. Port officials may lean into cars and hand tablets over.

Crossings to France could mean tens of thousands of people each day stopping their car, rolling down the window, taking the tablet, getting fingerprinted and photographed, handing back the tablet and starting the engine. These checks are unworkable and threaten to close ports for leisure travellers.

Alongside the EES, the EU will require an Etias. This is a visa-lite granted in advance of travel. The system will be simple and cheap (£6), but the right to entry ultimately rests with the border guard. They will have questions for some UK citizens, leading to queues.

To prevent travel to Europe from falling apart, we must move on from blaming the EU for these queues. These border checks were our choice. More crucially, we need to start talking to and agreeing on solutions with the EU.

This week, I asked that finger-wagging travel boss if he wanted to revisit his comments to me about long queues. He did. He blamed the French.

Rory Boland is Editor at Which? Travel

@roryboland

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