OPINION - Dover chaos shows your passport isn’t worth what it used to be

·3-min read
 (West End Final)
(West End Final)

Those images of four-mile, six-hour long queues to get into and through the Port of Dover. They’re not quite the last helicopter out of Saigon, but they tell a story of their own.

The Port has declared a critical incident, blaming French authorities for insufficient border staff. But I’m afraid it also has a lot to do with Brexit. Prior to our exit from the EU, passport control at Dover was more of a vibe check.

Now, Brits travelling to the continent as tourists without a visa can only spend 90 out of any 180-day period in Europe (as a reminder, you used to be able to live and work freely and indefinitely in any EU member state). Consequently, each passport must now be stamped, which takes far longer. If you think this is inconvenient, you haven’t tried to export goods to the EU recently.

The other major Brexit development today is that the EU Commission has launched four new infringement procedures against the UK for failing to comply with parts of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

In other words, the Commission is getting its ducks in a row should the Government implement the NI Protocol Bill, which cleared the House of Commons on Wednesday but faces all manner of problems (not least heckling) in the Lords.

Neither the Brexit true-believer Rishi Sunak nor the zealous convert Liz Truss has opposed the Bill, and the EU appears to be in no mood to step back either. These are the early stages of a trade war, which could end up with tariffs being imposed and in extremis the suspension of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.

To be clear, that is some way away. But the stand-off between the UK and EU over the protocol is already hurting. It is directly linked to Britain being locked out of the EU’s Horizon Europe, a €95bn scientific programme.

British universities (higher education being a sector in which the UK can genuinely claim to be world-leading) only yesterday warned that our absence from the programme could damage public health and climate research.

I didn’t start out intending to write about Brexit at this time on a Friday (who does?) And I get it – being stuck in a six-hour queue with small children sounds like no fun at all. But lines at Dover (or indeed any EU airport for that matter) are only the most visible and immediate consequences normal people will encounter from Brexit.

Often, it’s invisible. The Office for Budget Responsibility can report a 15 per cent reduction in UK trade intensity, but what does that really mean?

It means the best candidate for the job not hired and a small business’s product not exported because of reams of red tape. Go on, how long can you get through this Cabinet Office video ominously titled ‘A simple guide to exporting‘?

Traffic jams and crying babies mean Brexit makes the front pages today, before retreating to tomorrow’s business section. But this is a classic slow puncture, squeezing the life out of the UK economy, one case of trade friction at a time.

In the comment pages, Homes and Property Editor Prudence Ivey asks why housing isn’t higher up the Tory leadership hopefuls’ agenda? While Paul Flynn admits Brad Pitt looked great, but says it’s high time we relaxed about men in skirts.

And finally, I leave you with a delightful little piece by Susie Lau on moving house in a heatwave.

Have a lovely weekend.

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