Holidaymakers and lorries were stuck in traffic en route to the port in Kent, southern England, on Saturday, with the port admitting “it will be very busy today” and travelers warned of four-hour waits.
The UK and France are locked in a round of finger-pointing over the cause of the shutdown, with UK lawmakers blaming French staffing and French officials nodding to increased post-Brexit customs controls.
“The British are right to complain because there are traffic jams. But it’s not the fault of the French, it’s the fault of Brexit,” French MP for Calais Pierre-Henri Dumont told French public radio France Info.
“The reality is this is the first post-Brexit holiday. With the United Kingdom finally leaving the European Union and with no travel restrictions due to the Covid pandemic … the French border guards are carrying out checks as they have to for entry into the European Union and therefore it takes time,” he said.
The French MP also blamed the size of the port of Dover, which he says is “three times smaller than the port of Calais”.
Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister accepted that Brexit had caused delays and told LBC on Saturday his team had “recognized that we are in a post-Brexit environment, which means that transaction times crossing the borders will take longer”.
But British lawmakers have insisted understaffing in Calais has clogged the route across the English Channel.
“We need action from France to build capacity at the border to limit further disruption to British tourists and ensure this appalling situation is avoided in the future. We will work with the French authorities to find a solution,” Truss said in a statement on Friday.
Dumont said all the cabs made available to French Dover police by British authorities in Dover were full, but acknowledged a slight delay in the early hours of Friday morning due to “a technical glitch”.
He dismissed allegations in the British press of “a willful desire to punish the British”, adding that there are “many French families who make a living from crossing the English Channel. Sailors, men and women, who are ashore .”
P&O Ferries has urged passengers to allow up to four hours to clear security checks at Dover on Saturday morning.
Relations between Britain and France have grown increasingly strained since Britain left the European Union, with leaders from both countries at odds over travel and migrant boats crossing the Channel.