The EU’s proposed Entry-Exit Scheme (EES) could cause queues of 14 hours or more, the European Scrutiny Committee has been warned.

In written evidence to the Committee, Ashford Borough Council said a “reasonable worst case” scenario could see 14-hour delays at the Port of Dover if the scheme is implemented as currently planned, in October 2024.  The Council said that “without useable systems” in place, the scheme would have considerable disruption on the Kent and Ashford economy and for local residents.

It also said that disruption to the Port of Dover could have a knock-on effect throughout the area. For example, lengthy delays at the port would likely see queues along the A20 and M20, which could block access to staff and tourist traffic at Eurotunnel in Folkestone, impacting local businesses.

Tourism organisation Visit Kent told the Committee it was concerned that the EES would disrupt the local economy. It said 13% of local businesses who responded to their survey in August 2023 said that “Operation Brock”, the system used to manage traffic in the event of long queues, had in the past had a negative impact on business. More than half of respondents said loss of footfall was one of their top concerns, with 38% concerned about travel disruption, and 21% concerned about Operation Brock specifically.

The Committee also received evidence from several other organisations set to play an active role in delivering the EES. Eurostar said that juxtaposed border controls, where checks are completed before departure rather than on arrival, made implementing the EES “a unique challenge,” and that the system was designed for airports rather than terminals in city-centres or with space constraints.

Several organisations said that the time taken on tourists’ first entry to the EU could increase significantly under the EES. Eurostar said that without upgrades, terminals could see queues of more than an hour at peak times. Getlink, which operates the Channel Tunnel, said the EES would add 5-7 minutes to the overall journey time of passengers using the Tunnel.

High Speed 1, which operates high-speed rail services from UK stations, said that the decision not to enable online pre-registration would “put enormous pressure on infrastructure at St Pancras International.”

“Achieving an acceptable level of service on day one in all EU member states is likely to be impossible,” it said. Without a mobile app, the scheme would need to be implemented gradually to avoid “severe disruption”.

Chair of the European Scrutiny Committee, Sir William Cash, said:

“Queues of more than 14 hours; vehicles backed up along major roads; businesses starved of footfall: this evidence paints an alarming picture of the possible risks surrounding the Entry-Exit System’s implementation.

“Clearly, this policy could have a very serious impact, not only for tourists and travel operators but also for local businesses. I implore decision makers on both sides of the Channel to take note of this evidence.

“The scheme is due to be implemented in October this year; the clock is ticking, and these issues must be urgently addressed.”


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