It will come as no surprise at all to demoralised, hard pressed and under-resourced UK border force officers that Theresa May's Brexit minister, David Davis, stated that the UK's 'control of its own borders' would have to go through a 'transitional period.' His excuse seemed to revolve around the needs of business but the reality is that UK border controls have been a shambles for years and would quite simply collapse with the additional workload pressed upon it by virtue of imposing any form of restriction on EU nationals.
Airport authorities recently voiced their concern that the resources of the UK Border Force would be inadequate to meet demand but were rebuffed by the usual bland, comfort statement from the Home Office.
"Remainers" on the government side including David Cameron and Theresa 'one half-hearted pro-Remain speech' May would have known that the UK's Border Force would be unable to cope but failed to say so as any such statement would expose their own woeful stewardship of the UK's borders.
Many Brexiteers would also have been aware of the failings at UK borders which would prevent any 'strengthening' of our controls in the short or medium term yet they said nothing as immigration issues were clearly the tipping point in respect of the referendum vote.
The Shambles that are our borders.
It's not as if border control issues remain out of the news for protracted periods of time. The Eurostar 'Lille loophole' whereby persons could enter the UK without producing any identification, should have been closed back in 2011 but was recently shown to have continued to exist in the 'rush hour.' Potential weaknesses at our small seaports, airports and coastlines have been commented on by the Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration, and exposed by journalists. Each revelation is inevitably followed by a bland 'comfort statement' from the Home Office.
Yet of course the disaster of post Brexit border controls will be most apparent at our major air and sea ports. At present, the Home Office's own staff survey shows that the morale of UKBF front line officers is at an abysmally low level with little confidence in both senior managers and government ministers.
300 graduates recruited nearly three years ago, have virtually all departed and at major airports border controls are held together by the sticking plaster of 'seasonal' Border Force officers; temporary staff who have received just two weeks training. Those employed for the 'summer rush' have been retained and now a desperate Home Office are advertising for more.
The main priority at major airports, especially Heathrow is queues. Airport staff are employed to watch CCTV screens showing immigration halls and as soon as queues build up, calls are made to UKBF managers which result in 'flexible' teams being taken away from customs duties to staff passport controls. Even those few deployed to 'permanent' customs duties such as in cargo and the post room are taken away to avoid dreaded queue breaches. Despite this, as illustrated by complaints on social media, queues continue to exist which can result in queueing times being manipulated to ensure queue breaches are avoided.
UK Border Force managers are currently in a state of panic as drug seizure targets are in danger of not being met and indeed most seizures that do take place are as a result of National Crime Agency operations. The days of the customs officer's 'nose,' experience and expertise in spotting the 'wrong 'un' have virtually gone.
EU citizens and UK post-Brexit borders
So, what will be impact of Brexit on EU nationals as they arrive at our overcrowded, air and sea ports? Let's assume the million or so EU nationals working here are permitted to stay. How will they be identified if they leave and return to the UK? Will they have to be registered in some way? If so how? Controversial ID cards? Some sort of visa in their passports? Where would they register? Police stations, if the can find one that is open? Post offices?
The Home Office is totally swamped with asylum and leave to remain cases and have responsibility for tracing anywhere between 500,000 and one million persons illegally in the UK. Home Office enforcement officers are frequently diverted away from these duties to deal with the hundreds of migrants/refugees who manage to evade the UK juxtaposed controls in France and Belgium and then at UK sea ports. The Home Office interestingly refuse to release figures of those who have made it to the UK. Those figures would not, of course, include those who have travelled here undetected and have simply vanished into the various communities.
Given the current chaos that frequently reigns at larger airports, additional screening of EU nationals' resident in the UK post Brexit to confirm their entitlement to reside will bring those airports to a halt. Those EU nationals resident here will have to be separated from those coming from Europe to visit family or arriving as tourists. They will be unable to use controversial eGates which the Home Office have 'employed' as a cost cutting measure to replace UKBF officers.
Even if every desk in the arrivals hall is occupied by a UKBF officer it will make little difference; the airport terminals, at peak periods will still be unable to cope. The frequency of queues stretching back to the airport gates, already a problem due to the increased passenger capacity of planes, will increase while more planes will be stuck on airport taxiways.
Those with EU passports, including those not entitled to reside, will of course, post Brexit, be able to avoid chaos at UK air and seaports, by simply arriving in Ireland and making their way north into the United Kingdom.
Brexit, Le Touquet, Consequences.
Meanwhile at our sea ports, where poor recording of passenger details for security purposes has recently been criticised, there will be similar problems which will become truly horrendous if the French decide that the UK border controls on their soil will have to go. Whilst the Le Touquet agreement is supposedly a separate issue from Brexit, it seems probable that when current President, Francois Hollande, steps down at the next election, his successor could well terminate the agreement.
The result will be that those evicted from Calais and who can now be found in other makeshift, squalid coastal camps or on the streets of Paris, will face little more than a token effort from French law enforcement to prevent them from concealing themselves in trucks and other UK bound vehicles. French customs officers will doubtless be more interested in conducting meticulous post Brexit checks on the paperwork of lorries and trucks with goods destined for or arriving from the UK.
The result at Dover and other ports will be the inevitable arrival of hundreds, perhaps thousands of refugees and migrants and this may indeed be welcomed by those swathes of the UK populace who demonstrated in such impressive numbers against the immigration edicts of Donald Trump.
It will not, however, be the situation which influenced millions of UK nationals to put their tick in the Brexit box.
The consequences could involve large scale civil unrest especially if this coincides with post Brexit economic woe; extreme elements amongst those who voted for Brexit on immigration grounds could well be in street conflict with those who support the concept of 'all refugees welcome here' and minority communities themselves while hate crimes will almost inevitably show a dramatic increase.
Doubtless both the 'Remainers and Brexiteers' will ignore the very real issues stated above while, if asked to comment, the Home Office will produce its usual bland spin along the lines of; 'the Home Office is committed to strong borders and we are confident we have the resources to cope with all eventualities post Brexit.'
Cue helpless laughter from front line UK Border Force officers.