The prime minister’s official spokesperson has admitted Brexit has contributed to the delays at Dover port after a weekend of denials.
Rishi Sunak’s spokesperson said a “combination of factors” are to blame for the chaos witnessed at the Kent port, citing poor weather, large numbers of travellers and the “new processes” introduced for checking passports post-Brexit.
The concession by Downing Street is a sharp contrast to the line taken by home secretary Suella Braverman that it was “not fair” to blame the disruption on Brexit.
The Confederation of Passenger Transport (CPT) – which represents coach operators – has called for “crisis talks” with the government, Dover port and ferry companies in order to “resolve this mess once and for all”, the Independent reports.
CPT claim their vehicles have been “treated unfairly” with coaches carrying thousands of passengers forced to endure waits up to 24 hours over the weekend.
Dover port declared a critical incident on Friday and blamed the delays on “a mix of lengthy immigration processes at the border and sheer volume of traffic”, as well as adverse weather conditions.
Braverman told Sky News’ Sophy Ridge on Sunday programme: “I don’t think it’s fair to say that this is an adverse effect of Brexit. It’s a very busy time of year, and there’s been some bad weather.
“We’ve had many years now since leaving the EU, and there’s been, on the whole, very good operations and processes at the border.”
Braverman added: “What I would say is at acute times when there is a lot of pressure crossing the Channel, whether that’s on the tunnel or ferries, then I think that there’s always going to be a back-up and I just urge everybody to be a bit patient while the ferry companies work their way through the backlog.”
Braverman denied the disruption seen at Dover in the lead up to Easter will become a feature of school holidays, telling the BBC: “I think we have got a particular combination of factors that have occurred at this point in time. This will ease.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer rubbished Braverman’s claim, telling LBC on Monday: “Of course Brexit has had an impact – there are more checks to be done.”
Starmer told Sunak’s government to “get a grip” of a situation that was inevitable given the extra passport checks required after Brexit.
“Once we left, it was obvious that what had to happen at the border would change.
“Whichever way you voted, that was obvious. Whichever way you voted, you are entitled to have a Government that recognises that and plans ahead.
“Yet again we have got to the first big holiday of the year and we have got queues, to the great frustration of many families trying to get out to have a well-earned holiday, and I think my message to the Government, their message, would be ‘Get a grip’.”
Dover port declared a critical incident in July last year at the start of the summer school holidays after a backlog of traffic caused chaos and days of disruption at the Kent port.
Labour’s Lisa Nandy, the shadow levelling-up secretary said the government has “known for a very long time” that adequate resources are needed to deal with “additional paperwork checks” following Britain’s withdrawal from the EU.
“The point is not whether we left the European Union or not. The point was that we left with a government that made big promises and once again didn’t deliver,” Nandy told Sky News.
“And I really feel for the families that are trying to get away for an Easter break, people who have been caught up in this chaos, people whose livelihoods are threatened.”