Brexit trouble: queuing times at UK-French border set to double with new digital checks, says new report

Those travelling between the UK and France could face lengthy delays when new EU digital border checks are introduced

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UK travellers hoping to head across the French border might be facing queue waiting times doubling or even tripling when new digital border checks are introduced, according to an official report.

French public finance watchdog Cour des Comptes has said that queuing times at the border could double or even triple as France looks set to introduce new EU digital border checks. The new checks will require facial biometrics and fingerprints for those passing through the first time. Passengers only need to scan passports on subsequent trips.

The requirement for facial biometrics and fingerprints is part of the EU's Entry/Exit System (EES), in which British travellers are designated "third-world nationals". The EU says that the system aims to record the movements of those non-EU visitors to the region and will eliminate the need for time-consuming manual stamping of passports every time visitors pass through the checkpoint.

Officials hope that the new system, once implemented, will reduce overall waiting times. However, the watchdog has warned that collecting photographs and fingerprints during initial registration will only add to the time needed to travel through from the UK to France and vice-versa.

Cour des Comptes said: “Even though the average check time has increased since Brexit for Eurostar, doubling or even tripling waiting time could drive some travellers to opt for a plane."

France is said to have ordered 544 data kiosks and 250 tablets which will help to register travellers onto the system at the border. UK passengers travelling to the Schengen Area - the area of free movement within the EU - must have their documents and data processed the first time that they travel into the zone.

Initial testing of the systems has suggested that around two minutes per passenger could be added on when passed through border checkpoints via ferry port or airport.

EES was adopted by the EU in 2016. However, delays have meant that there has been a wait until the introduction of the new system. It is expected that the EES will be introduced at the French border no earlier than 2025.

Speaking to The Telegraph, Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy the PC Agency, said: “Getting into Europe needs to be more seamless, not more cumbersome.The processing of passengers whether at our ferry ports, at St Pancras or on arrival at a European airport, will have to be much faster otherwise peak periods will become unbearable for those stuck in ever-longer queues.”