The UK’s departure from the European Union means travellers face more rigorous passport and other checks before crossing the Channel, where previously they were largely waved through.
But the prime minister’s spokesman said they did not “necessitate” the huge queues seen at the weekend, while declining to say they played no part at all.
The problems were caused by a combination of factors “including a shortage of French border control staff and there was a serious accident on the M20”.
“These are not scenes that we think are necessitated by leaving the European Union,” the spokesman said, adding: “We think we have operational procedures and processes in place that do not need to see these levels of queues.”
No 10 also stepped back from calling on France to stop stamping the passports of travelling Britons – which Paris says is required now the UK is a “third country”, not an EU member.
“It is for, obviously, individual governments to decide how to carry out checks at the border. Our view is that these should be done proportionately and sensibly given the good working relationships that we have,” the spokesman said.
Asked whether the government believed the French approach was proportionate and sensible, the spokesman said: “It’s not for me to pass judgment.”
He was also unable to say why the Port of Dover’s £33m application for new infrastructure to cope with longer checks and more queuing was rejected, as reported.
The port had been given extra staffing booths, more parking spaces and two further lanes for freight traffic, Downing Street said.
Fears are growing that the congestion seen at Dover and Folkestone will become ‘the new normal” at weekends throughout the rest of the summer season.
Motorists and truck drivers must clear French border controls on this side of the Channel, as holiday traffic returns to levels not seen since before the Covid pandemic, in 2019,
Checks by The Independent found a typical time of 90 seconds for a family of four in a car to have their documents checked – probably three times longer than before the post-Brexit rules took effect.
The police are required to check every passport, stamp it with the day of departure and check both the purpose of the visit and that the traveller has an onward or return ticket, plus sufficient funds for their stay.
The Port of Dover said traffic is “flowing normally this morning” and that the French booths were “well staffed”.
But Toby Howe, senior highways manager at Kent County Council said, of the rest of the summer: “It’s a very vulnerable situation, it takes very little to cause further issues.”