British travellers are threatened with queues for visa stamps at EU borders for a further 18 months, as Emmanuel Macron seeks to delay the introduction of new automated gates.
The French government has told the airline industry that it aims to prevent the introduction of the forthcoming biometric entry and exit system (EES) until after August 2024. Officials at the Elysée are said to fear teething troubles at passport control could cause chaos at airports and disrupt the Paris Olympics next summer.
Mr Macron’s plan to delay the EES would adjourn what has been dubbed “the next big Brexit moment” in Whitehall. Ministers have been hopeful that the technology will alleviate the border friction caused by Britain’s exit from the EU.
The rollout has already been hit by a series of delays, however. The latest of these, moving the rollout from May to November this year, was greeted with some relief because of fears that a rush job would lead to misery this summer.
However, a delay into the second half of next year will mean the vision of an end to manual checks and passport stamps remains out of reach for another holiday season. It means British passport holders must line up in “all other passports” queues, which have snaked back to airport arrival gates during the summer.
The EES will use fingerprint and facial recognition technology to build a biometric profile. It will be applied to all arrivals in EU countries.
It is similar to the system that is already available for UK and EU arrivals at British airports – and allows visitors from the Continent to skip the longer “all other passports” queue. Britons have not been able to benefit similarly since the UK exited the EU, however.
British officials are pressing ahead with preparations on the assumption that the EU sticks to the November deadline.
On their first visit to the EU, citizens from outside the bloc would have photographs and fingerprints taken.