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‘Tell EU to delay Entry/Exit system’ to avoid serious travel disruption, warns Lords committee

Brexit and beyond

A Lords committee has warned the government of “serious delays for passengers” at London St Pancras, the Eurotunnel terminal at Folkestone and the Port of Dover unless the European Union postpones the launch of its Entry/Exit System (EES) later this year.

After the vote to leave the EU, the UK negotiated for British travellers to become “third-country nationals” facing a range of frontier hurdles, include the new electronic border system – currently planned for October or November 2024.

Every British visitor to the EU and wider Schengen Area must provide prints from the four fingers on their right hand as well as a facial biometric. The process, which must be supervised by a European frontier official, will sharply increase the processing time at ports, rail terminals and airports.

The Justice and Home Affairs Committee of the House of Lords is calling on the government to “use all diplomatic efforts” to persuade Brussels to defer the introduction. The cross-party committee says travel disruption could be reduced by the use of an EU smartphone app that is under development. It would allow at least the facial biometric and the traveller’s personal data to be registered ahead of reaching the border.

The committee chair, Lord Foster of Bath, has written to Tom Pursglove, minister for Legal Migration and the Border, asking him to “encourage the EU to delay the introduction of the EES until a smartphone application for pre-registration is ready”.

The letter says: “In the absence of a smartphone application to capture in advance information required for the EES (including facial image), we believe there is a significant chance of serious delays for passengers, and disruption in Kent.”

Airline passengers with British passports will undergo the formalities on arrival in the European Union, with some nations estimating the requirement will quadruple the time taken to process each traveller.

The cross-party Lords committee looked in detail at the three UK locations where border controls are “juxtaposed”, with French Police aux Frontières processing passengers before they board transport to France:

  • The Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone, where LeShuttle car-carrying trains depart for Calais.
  • The Port of Dover, the UK’s main ferry departure point to Continental Europe.
  • London St Pancras…

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