Brexit, an obstacle to human exchanges

Idid passengers stranded at the Port of Dover over the Easter weekend have a sense of humor? For this great departure on vacation, huge delays were recorded, up to two hours for some coaches. Was Brexit responsible, at least in part? Nothing to do, categorically affirmed Suella Braverman, the British interior minister, a fervent supporter of leaving the European Union (EU): “I don’t think it’s fair to say it’s a negative effect of Brexit. ยป

Editorial: Getting out of Brexit sourness

The port of Dover was however clear: the fault lay with the “long checks at the French border”. However, while the United Kingdom has never been part of the Schengen area and passport control has always been necessary, it is now more complicated than before. With Brexit, you have to check that passengers have not spent more than ninety days in the EU in the last six months (beyond that, a visa is required), then stamp the passport. That’s a big handful of seconds more per passenger, which turns into a headache at rush hour.

The Easter weekend anecdote reveals a deeper problem: since Brexit, passenger traffic between the UK and the EU has been at half mast. Divorce from the EU, beyond its commercial and geopolitical consequences, is also reflected in the distancing of populations.

The United Kingdom’s exit from the European single market dates from 1er January 2021. For a long time, the pandemic made it very difficult to analyze the situation. Passengers had stopped traveling, mainly because of health restrictions. This is no longer the case. However, the fall in trade is confirmed. In the port of Calais, the number of passenger vehicles was down 35% at the end of March compared to 2018 (the last year not affected by Brexit, which was originally scheduled to take place on March 31, 2019). The number of private vehicles passing through the Channel Tunnel is, for its part, down 20% in the first quarter compared to 2018; for the Eurostar, the decline is 7%.

No time to control everyone

Admittedly, global air traffic has not returned to pre-Covid-19 levels either. Eurotunnel operator Getlink recorded its best attendance since 2018 over the Easter weekend. Summer bookings are also encouraging. But it’s hard to ignore a Brexit effect.

At St Pancras station in London, where the Eurostar terminal is cramped, new automatic passport reader terminals have been put in place, but a border police officer is stationed just after, forced to stamp the passports one by one. No more question of arriving thirty minutes before a departure, it is better to count an hour. This slowdown forces Eurostar to voluntarily leave a third of its first train leaving early in the morning empty: there is simply not enough time to check everyone. “We have 14 round trips per day between London and Paris compared to 16 to 18 in 2019”said a spokesperson.

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