Edmund King, president of the AA, has suggested that the chaotic conditions for drivers trying to use the port of Dover on the first weekend of the holiday season could be “payback” for Brexit and may be a foretaste of things to come.
The weekend of 23–24 July turned into a traffic nightmare for road travellers in the South East of England bound for the Continent, with many stuck in traffic jams on the A2, A20 and M20 for up to 12 hours while they waited to cross the Channel.
By lunchtime on Saturday, the port was advising travellers that waiting times were between five and 10 hours, with nearly two hours waiting once inside the port. Ferries were leaving half-empty to meet sailing times.
Delays were blamed on staff shortages at French border controls at the port of Dover and Eurotunnel. France has increased the level of its security checks following the Nice attacks.
The Port of Dover Authority said: “The French border control booths have been seriously understaffed overnight with only three booths available for tourists out of a potential seven.
“At one stage, only one French officer was available to check passengers on hundreds of coaches, resulting in each coach taking 40 minutes to process.”
But frustrated motorists questioned whether the mayhem may have been deliberate as a foretaste of the isolation Britain could experience if free movement is limited as part of a deal to take the UK out of the EU.
Edmund King said: “It doesn’t show a sign of co-operation between the British and French – one could perhaps surmise that there is a bit of payback there.
“It is a growing concern for drivers who up until now have enjoyed the freedom of driving across Europe. Will that change?”
Andrew Bridgen, the Conservative MP, said he hoped it was not a “reaction to Brexit”.