The Mayor of London said the Government should not “wash its hands” of issues around post-Brexit red tape and urged ministres to “prevent chaos” for Eurostar passengers, after warnings that the UK was not properly planning for the new EU biometric Entry/Exit System (EES).
High Speed 1, which runs UK rail services and operates the line between London and the Channel Tunnel, said preparations for the new system had been “severely inadequate” and could lead to massive queues and the potential capping of passenger numbers.
HS1 told MPs last month that the decision not to enable online pre-registration would “put enormous pressure on infrastructure at St Pancras International”.
The new EES checks, which are expected to begin in October, will require travellers from countries outside the EU to register biometrics such as facial and fingerprint scans at their first point of entry.
The Labour mayor has called upon ministers to support HS1 and Eurostar in urgently resolving these issues, saying the “success” of Eurostar is “a vital part of London’s and the UK’s economic success – with St Pancras a gateway for huge numbers of tourists and businesspeople in the country.”
He added: “As it stands these new post-Brexit checks will cause chaos at St Pancras, with cuts to services and potentially huge queues facing passengers at peak times. This is directly a result of Brexit, and it’s not an issue ministers can now wash their hands of.
“With London’s economy roaring back after the pandemic, this sends a terrible signal to both tourists and businesses from around the world.
“Ministers now need to offer HS1 and Eurostar all the support it needs to resolve these issues as a matter of urgency. Cuts to services and longer delays simply isn’t an option.”
Mr Khan, who is seeking a third term in May’s mayoral election, has been vocal in his opposition to the Tory government’s “extreme hard Brexit” and in pointing out the “damage” done to the capital.
Speaking at an event in January, the London mayor said:
“The inescapable truth is that this unnecessarily hard-line version of Brexit is having a detrimental effect on our capital and country — at a time when we can least afford it.
“We can’t – in all good conscience – pretend that it isn’t hurting our people and harming our businesses. As Mayor of this great city, choosing not to say anything would be a dereliction of duty.”
A Government spokesman said: “The new Entry/Exit System is an EU programme overseen by the European Commission. The UK Government is working closely with the EU and member states to minimise any impact at our shared borders with Europe.
“The Home Secretary recently met with the French interior minister to discuss the introduction of the Entry/Exit system and we are in close contact with the travel industry and port authorities to ensure they are prepared to minimise the risk of delays.”