LONDON (AFP) – Unions, port officials and the French authorities blamed Brexit on Saturday (July 23) as thousands of holidaymakers faced long delays trying to reach Europe via the English Channel port of Dover.
But UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss laid the blame squarely on Paris, telling her French counterpart Catherine Colonna that “the French authorities have not put enough people on the border.”
The situation has added to the bad blood between London and Paris in the wake of Brexit, scotching hopes of a reset after Boris Johnson said earlier this month he was stepping down as premier.
“We need to see action from them (the French) to resolve the terrible situation which travellers, including families, are facing,” said Truss, who is currently fighting to succeed Johnson as prime minister.
But Paris has rejected claims that the gridlock was caused by under-staffing and Colonna in her tweet took a more sanguine view of their conversation, describing the talks as “good” and welcoming the “cooperation” to reduce the delays.
Colonna also underlined the “need to improve facilities at the Port of Dover.”
Tweeting the front page of Britain’s right-wing Daily Telegraph which had the headline “Truss tells France to fix holiday chaos”, France’s Transport Minister Clement Beaune said the French authorities were “mobilised” to ease movement.
But in a jab at London, the former Europe minister added: “France is not responsible for Brexit”.
‘More checks than before’
Border checks and extra paperwork for freight traffic were reintroduced when Britain left the European Union last year, ending free movement for people and goods in the bloc.
Bottlenecks of lorries at Dover have been seen since then but this summer is the first with unrestricted travel for the public since the lifting of all Covid restrictions.
French lawmaker Pierre-Henri Dumont, whose constituency includes the French Channel port of Calais, called the travel chaos “an aftermath of Brexit”.
“We have to run more checks than before,” he told BBC television, predicting it would happen again.
Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister initially blamed a lack of French border agency staff for the logjam which saw some holidaymakers wait six hours or longer to catch their ferries.
But he conceded there were now “increased transaction times” post-Brexit. The port was confident of handling the demand at peak periods, he added.