Britons who regularly travel between the UK and European Union are concerned about possible long delays caused by new post-Brexit checks required for travellers, with an expat in Spain saying she’ll visit relatives less often because of the “hostile” regulation.
UK passport holders are set to face delays entering Europe under a fresh requirement to take fingerprint and facial scans of British travellers the first time they cross into the EU under the Entry/Exit System (EES).
For their data to then be stored in the European travel information and authorisation system (Etias), non-EU travellers will also have to pay €7 (£6) to fill in a form.
Ingrid Hughes, a 41-year-old English teacher who has been living in the northwestern Asturias region of Spain on and off for more than a decade told i it was “very saddening” to see the border crossing become “so much more difficult and messy”.
As a mother of three toddlers, Ms Hughes predicted the new checks would “definitely add” to the stress of travelling.
The Port of Dover has previously estimated the additional requirements – set to be introduced in October 2024 – were likely to add up to 10 minutes for a family of five in a vehicle on their first trip after the EES is introduced. The cumulative effect of the new plans could lead to significant delays for British travellers.
Ms Hughes had been travelling up to five times a year to the UK to visit friends and family but said the restrictions – including the upcoming biometric scans – are likely to mean she travels to Britain “considerably less”.
“It does all feel more hostile,” Ms Hughes said about the regulations. “Going back to Britain used to be like going home. It won’t feel like that so much.
“I have always felt British and I have always felt European. Now I also feel as though I am being told, ‘You are not European anymore.’”
Ms Hughes, however, said extra restrictions “serve [the UK] right” for having voted for Brexit. “I do not think they thought through the full consequences of Brexit,” she said.
Clive Wratten, CEO of the Business Travel Association, told i he had concerns over potentially “huge queues” caused by the scans.
But he said the move was likely offer some benefits to his members in the longer term.
After British travellers’ first entry into the EU, their biometric data will be stored in an EU-wide database, and they should then face quicker processing.
“Ultimately it should be a good thing,” he said. “It should shorten times if the right infrastructure is there, but that is a big if… Tech helps that, assuming it works.
“Everything should all work the same across the EU. In practice, though, we know that is not the case.”
Mr Wratten was confident that bigger countries, such as Spain and France, will be able to get the necessary infrastructure up and running to ensure the system works smoothly over the coming years.
Other, smaller countries – such as Austria, which has already warned of larger queues – may struggle to cope.
The director of Statewatch, which monitors civil liberties in the EU, previously told i that the Austrian government has estimated that already lengthy waiting times will double once the new system is in place.
Mr Wratten is worried about the “initial backlog” his members could face, caused by queues of residents from third-party countries, who will be entering the EU for the first time after the measures are introduced, going through the biometric checks.
“There is a risk for business travellers having to join a huge queue… and they could have a meeting in Munich in two hours but, because of these delays, could miss their meeting.”
His association has already asked EU authorities to undertake pre-registration measures, in order to avoid those delays: “The bottom line is, post Brexit, we want to get our members through passport control as quickly as possible.”