Queues stretching back for several hours. Children going crazy in the back seat. Cars breaking down in the heat, and holidays thrown into chaos by delays at the terminal. Anyone who imagined that they were making their lives easier by avoiding the airports and driving to continental Europe this summer will have had a nasty surprise. The ferries are just as bad, with a major incident declared at Dover as cars were snarled up in long jams. And yet, at the risk of disappointing hard core Remainers, that turns out to have nothing to do with Brexit – and a lot to do with French incompetence.
It would be easy to blame our departure from the European Union for the chaos at Dover this weekend. After all, were we not warned that leaving would make traveling to Europe a lot harder? We would be right at the back of the queue with the Bolivians and the Aussies. We can hardly expect seamless travel into the continent now that we have left. We only have ourselves to blame – and the sooner we rejoin the better.
There is just one problem with that analysis however. It’s nonsense. In fact, the delays have been caused by a shortage of French border guards. As it happens, the French have always checked our passports at the border, perfectly reasonably since we are not part of the Schengen agreement, and we are hardly short of criminals and drug dealers.
The only thing that has changed is the French have fewer guards this year. Driving back through the tunnel myself last Friday evening I noticed only two checkpoints open, with six closed. As it happened, it was not especially busy, and it caused only a minor delay. Now the holiday season is in full swing, that shortage is causing chaos. And it is only going to get worse over the summer.
Of course the French may be punishing us for leaving. More plausibly they are suffering the same staff and capacity crisis as every airport and ferry terminal across the continent. It might make Remainers feel a little better as they while away the hours looking out on a sea of Nissans and Volkswagens stuck alongside them in the queue. But in truth Brexit has nothing to do with it.
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