Exclusive: Government Rejected Dover Port Funding Bid For Extra Passport Booths

The cash would have paid for additional checks needed because of Brexit.
Coaches wait to enter the Port of Dover in Kent after extra sailings were run to try and clear the backlog which left passengers stuck in Easter traffic for hours.
Coaches wait to enter the Port of Dover in Kent after extra sailings were run to try and clear the backlog which left passengers stuck in Easter traffic for hours.
Andrew Matthews via PA Wire/PA Images

Ministers turned down a bid by the Port of Dover for funding to build more passport booths, HuffPost UK can reveal.

Officials at the port applied to the Cabinet Office for £33 million from a special infrastructure fund in 2020.

The cash would have paid for “additional French passport control booths to compensate for slower transaction times and a reordering of controls within the port” following Brexit.

But a press release issued by the port in December 2020 says that “at the eleventh hour the port [was] offered just one tenth of one per cent of what was needed”.

The press release added: “Dover will still provide the highest frequency, highest capacity and therefore ultimately the best supply chain resilience as the closest point to Britain’s largest trading partner, but the lack of financial support will make a smoother transition more difficult.

“This should and still could be avoided as we continue to seek support from government, but the clock is ticking.”

Passengers trying to pass through Dover on their way to France were hit by major delays at the weekend as the port struggled to process them.

Home secretary Suella Braverman insisted the chaos was not down to Brexit.

Local Tory MP Natalie Elphicke said she was “incredibly disappointed to see French border control problems once again adding to traffic mayhem” at the Kent port.

But travel expert and journalist Simon Calder said the French authorities were doing what “we asked them to do” by painstakingly checking the passports of everyone trying to get across the Channel.

Doug Bannister, the chief executive of the Port of Dover, also confirmed that the “post-Brexit environment means that every passport needs to be checked”.

Mike Tapp, Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Dover, told HuffPost UK: “We’ve known for years that this problem is going to get worse. Dover Port applied for new entry booths in 2020. This was rejected by the Cabinet Office.

“So who is really to blame? The Conservative government for its failure to plan, which we have seen across numerous departments.

“It’s now about solving the problem for holiday makers, residents and small business in Dover that are suffering.

“Get the booths built, get the digital solutions in place and fix the problems instead of the constant sound bites. The talking needs to stop and be replaced with action.”

Cabinet Office sources told HuffPost UK the government had made £470m available to improve port infrastructure and ease the flow of trade from the EU into Great Britain.

The government is also planning a “digital border” to improve security and reduce friction and costs for businesses.

Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner said: “This incompetent Tory government is holding Britain back.

“They were asleep at the wheel when they could have been heeding the warnings and acting to prevent chaos at the border, now they’re passing the buck.

Their inability to get a grip has left holiday makers stranded and businesses suffering as the risk of yet more disruption at Dover over the Easter weekend looms.”


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