Thursday, July 25, 2024

Starmer will persuade EU to rethink fingerprint checks for holidaymakers

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Sir Keir Starmer has said he would persuade the European Union to look again at new fingerprint checks for holidaymakers.

From October, new EU rules will require those catching the ferry at Dover or travelling on Eurostar or Eurotunnel trains to have their fingerprints and a facial photo taken before they depart.

It is feared that the new checks could trigger hours of delays at the border.

Speaking on Thursday, the Labour leader said “yes” when asked if he would convince Brussels to “look again” at the issue.

“I think that we should do whatever we can do to make it easy for people to travel on holiday, get into the continent and back,” Sir Keir told LBC’s Tonight with Andrew Marr.

“Part of this is about trust and respect and the way in which we deal with the EU.

“Boris Johnson and Liz Truss did huge damage to our basic relations with our EU partners.

“Nobody going on holiday this summer wants to have a harder time than they need to, so of course we will do anything to make it easier for anybody to holiday, whether it’s in Europe or abroad.”

Jump in processing times

The EU’s new Entry/Exit System (EES) is set to go live on Oct 6 after being delayed by technical and data privacy issues several times since 2022, when it was initially due to be rolled out.

It will replace the scanning and stamping of passports that has been mandatory for Britons going into France since Brexit.

For people leaving by plane, and on most other ferry routes, biometric checks will be made when arriving overseas.

But at Dover and on cross-Channel trains, they will be performed by French border officials stationed on British soil.

Some French calculations suggest processing times for a car with a family of four at Dover could jump from less than 60 seconds to seven minutes.

In evidence presented to Parliament in January, Ashford council in Kent warned of a “reasonable worst-case scenario” involving 14-hour delays at the port.

Increased security checks by French officials after the Brexit vote in 2016 left 250,000 drivers stranded for days in queues that stretched for 12 miles.

Possible 14-hour delays

At St Pancras railway station in central London, Eurostar has started to modify its departure zone to install almost 50 kiosks for people to be processed through EES.

However, limited space at the station has led to concerns over where passengers will be held as they are processed.

Eurotunnel insists an £80 million refit of its departures terminal, including a covered area the size of a football pitch filled with processing kiosks, will provide enough room to get cars through without causing delays.

L’Union des Aéroports Français, which represents airports in France, has warned its members have not had enough time to set up kiosks to collect the necessary data.

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