Jacob Rees-Mogg: I was wrong to say Brexit would not cause delays at Dover | Brexit
Jacob Rees-Mogg admitted he was wrong to say there would be no delays at the port of Dover caused by the UK leaving the EU.
But the Minister for Brexit Opportunities maintained the government line that the French, not Brexit, caused the recent delays, in a radio interview on Tuesday.
LBC radio replayed a claim from 2018 when he insisted ‘there will be no need for checks at Dover’ and made it clear that ‘the delays won’t be at Dover, they will be at Calais”.
Rees-Mogg blamed Paris for the “France-created delays” witnessed recently before he was asked if he would apologize for being wrong.
“Yes, of course I was wrong, but I was wrong for the right reason, if I can put it that way,” he said.
“What I meant was that the only delays would be caused by the French if they decided not to let the British pass freely. They decided to do it. »
Rees-Mogg went on to suggest that the British might believe “that going to Portugal is more fun because the Portuguese want us to go there and the French are difficult”.
“Why should we go and spend our hard-earned money in France if the French don’t want us? he asked, before insisting that he was not calling for a boycott.
Authorities in Dover declared a critical incident as the traffic jam was causing delays of up to five to six hours and volunteer staff were distributing water in bumper-to-bumper traffic.
The Port of Dover and Eurotunnel, which operates rail and car transport across the Channel, said the delays were caused by the extra checks needed on British passports.
As part of the Le Touquet agreement between France and the UK, French border control personnel are stationed on the British side of the Channel.
Before Brexit, when freedom of movement existed for EU nationals, officials were only required to check passports for identity purposes, matching the faces of people in cars with their passports and ensuring that the document was up to date.
Since Brexit, different travel rules apply to all third-country nationals.
UK nationals can still travel visa-free to the EU, but only for 90 days within a 180-day period.
This means that French border control officers must stamp each passport to register entry and exit and also check the passport for previous stamps to ensure the 90 day limit has not been exceeded.
The Port of Dover said two weekends ago that checks took an average of 90 seconds, compared to 48 seconds before Brexit.
Authorities admitted there was also a problem of being understaffed for hours on Friday July 22, but that only lasted about two hours.
The Port of Dover had increased its number of passport control booths from six to nine in June to prepare for the July 22 weekend. It was the weekend after schools in England closed for the summer holidays, traditionally the busiest days for tourist travel.
Last weekend Dover carried 142,000 passengers, a fivefold increase on the same period last year. Eurotunnel carried approximately 100,000 passengers.
Extra passport checks combined with the huge spike in traffic resulted in queues of up to six hours before journey times returned to normal on Monday July 25.
The travel industry warns delays could be even worse for travelers after the EU introduces biometric checks including facial recognition and fingerprints next summer under the so-called entry and exit (EES).