British travel chaos a result of ill-conceived Brexit – Arab News

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British travel chaos a result of ill-conceived Brexit

British travel chaos a result of ill-conceived Brexit
An end to freedom of movement means passports need to be scanned and stamped. (AFP)

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A tired country needs a vacation, but even that seems problematic for British holidaymakers trapped in lengthy queues while trying to cross to mainland Europe through the port of Dover. After months of strikes, by train drivers, health workers, border control officers, teachers, and others, the year’s greatest getaway period for the British has been dampened by heavy traffic and passport-processing delays by French authorities. “Oui, blame the French,” as this, too, has nothing to do with Brexit, of course.
Months of shortages, the ballooning cost of living, inflation and high energy prices did not deter those who managed to save enough to escape the country with their children during the two-week spring break, but who found themselves waiting helplessly in queues, a frequent feature of cross-Channel travel since Britain’s exit from the EU.
Britain in 2016 voted to “take back control” and extract itself from the EU, the UK’s closest trading partner and neighbor, in pursuit of the myth of a “global Britain,” free from the shackles and constraints of European regulation. The British were led to believe that they  would be free to strike deals with nations as far away as Australia and Colombia, creating a “Singapore on Thames” business and trading hub that would be the envy of all 27 members of the European bloc. So far the UK has signed trade deals in principle with 71 countries and one with the EU. However, these are simply “rollover” deals, with copied terms of agreements the UK had when it was a member of the EU.
Last week, Britain became the first new member of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, or CPTPP, since the group was created in 2018. This development fulfills a key Brexit pledge that once outside the EU, the UK could capitalize on joining blocs with faster-growing economies than those closer to home. Nevertheless, the expected cumulative impact of this deal in the long term is no more than 0.08 percent of gross domestic product, compared with the clear 4 percent the UK has lost from its economy as a result of leaving the EU.

The sooner the effects of Brexit are taken seriously by leading ministers, the sooner its negative impact can be addressed.

Mohamed Chebaro

Since Britain left the EU single market in 2021, it has been trying to strike bilateral deals to boost its international trade and flagging economy. Now, it has beaten even China, which applied to join in 2021, for a place at the CPTPP table, joining global players such as Canada, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, Chile, Mexico, Peru, Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore, and Vietnam. However, King’s College, London economist Jonathan Portes noted that the CPTPP was not a “deep multilateral agreement,” and might prove a mere geostrategic step, while its impact in lowering trade barriers would be “quite small” compared with its predecessor with the EU, or even highly prized pacts expected with the US or India.
Ignoring comments in the British media describing Conservative government officials as “delusional” for blaming the holiday misery in Dover on poor weather, the fact is that while the UK has been out of the EU since Jan. 31, 2020, the agreed transition period has meant that until recently there has been no need to stamp passports. An end to freedom of movement means passports need to be scanned and stamped, and that surely takes more time for every traveler crossing to the EU or back.
Brexiteer ministers of the UK government surely know that. A statement by Downing Street on the queues at Dover shows that at last some sense of reason is finally appearing, with Brexit mentioned by the spokesperson as a key factor in the Easter travel chaos.
The sooner the effects of Brexit are taken seriously by leading ministers, the sooner its negative impact on farming, fishing, manufacturing, investment, supply chains, lack of skilled labor and, of course, travel, can be addressed.

• Mohamed Chebaro is a British-Lebanese journalist, media consultant and trainer with more than 25 years of experience covering war, terrorism, defense, current affairs and diplomacy.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News’ point of view