British home secretary Suella Braverman has denied Brexit is responsible for delays at the port of Dover after some passengers said they had been queuing up to 14 hours to have their passports checked.
Extra sailings were being put in place overnight with hopes of clearing the backlog by lunchtime on Sunday, after a critical incident was declared at the port on Friday.
Speaking on Sky News’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, the home secretary said operations at the French border had been “very good” since Brexit.
“No, I don’t think that’s fair to say that this has been an adverse effect of Brexit. We’ve had many years now since leaving the European Union and there’s been, on the whole, very good operations and processes at the border.
“At acute times where there is a lot of pressure crossing the Channel, whether that’s on tunnel or ferries, then I think there’s always going to be a back-up. I just urge everybody to be a bit patient while the ferry companies work their way through the backlog.”
However, in an interview with the Observer a year ago, the port’s chief executive, Doug Bannister, admitted Brexit was causing longer processing times at the border.
He said: “There will be improvements which are made. People will get slicker at reading passports, get slicker at lodging paperwork and checking paperwork. But we are in a different trading regime.”
Later, speaking on the Laura Kuenssberg programme on BBC One, Ms Braverman denied the situation at Dover would repeat itself and blamed “bad weather”.
She said: “I really sympathise with families and schoolchildren who are trying to get to France for their Easter holidays. Nobody wants to be waiting hours overnight at Dover in a coach.”
When asked if it was something that would happen every school holiday, Braverman responded: “Not at all. In recent years things have been operating very smoothly at the border ... We’ve got a particular combination of factors that have occurred at this moment of time.”
She said it was “ultimately an issue for the ferry companies” but the government was talking to them.
The shadow levelling up secretary, Lisa Nandy, said the delays could be avoided if the government “started doing their actual job”.
Also on Sky News, she said: “There are clearly a range of factors that have gone into the delays here, and we’ve seen them before, but the government has known for a very long time that they needed to make sure that there were resources in place to deal with additional paperwork checks.
“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.”
Ms Braverman also declined to say when flights to Rwanda could take off, as she appeared to downplay suggestions that the stalled policy of deporting asylum seekers could begin this summer.
The home secretary also insisted ministers were looking at “all sorts of land and sites and vessels” to house asylum seekers in the UK, but refused to say whether the government was close to signing a deal on a procuring a barge.
Touring broadcast studios on Sunday, Ms Braverman faced questions about the Government’s record on illegal migration.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and Ms Braverman have said that “stopping the boats” across the English Channel is a crucial priority, but campaigners have condemned much of the government’s response, with the controversial Illegal Migration Bill described as an effective “asylum ban”. – Agencies