Chokepoint Dover

I was driving through the town of Faversham on the north Kent coast in July when I became aware that the pretty Georgian high street was clogged with traffic. It did not take long to figure out that this was a ripple effect from the giant traffic jam that had developed around Dover 25 miles away on the south coast of Kent. The chunk of England closest to France is becoming paralysed by the consequences of Brexit, with no end in sight.

And it is all going to get worse as EU border officials based in Dover introduce a new system of controls whereby they ensure that British citizens stay no more than the 90 out of 180 days allowed in the 26 countries in the Schengen Area. But the few minutes it takes for an official to examine a passport is enough to disrupt the whole business of crossing the Channel. Almost anything from a car crash on the access roads to Dover or too few border staff means that vehicles cannot get through the choke-point.

A sobering article called “Dover disruption – is this the new normal for Britain’s border?” by Professor Katy Hayward of the Centre for International Borders Research, Queen’s University Belfast, and Tony Smith, former director general of UK Border Force, makes clear that we are only getting a foretaste of the chaos to come. They point out that “while it takes two sides of a border to make a border easier to cross, it only takes those operating on one side of a border to make it hard”. Yet Foreign Secretary Liz Truss has made political friction with France – expressing distrust for President Macron – part of her Tory leadership campaign.

This point matters because although France and Britain both have elaborate plans to deal with Channel crossing, there is no coordination. Both countries plan to “involve biometric registration and recognition, to a greater or lesser extent. Passengers will need to have obtained a ‘digital permission’ to board trains and ferries in both directions, or face being denied boarding altogether”.

Few have taken on board the full bureaucratic horror racing towards them, but it is laid out in stark terms here.

Below the Radar

I was making the point in a column last week that what makes the Ukraine war so dangerous is simply that there is no sign of it ending. It is becoming similar to wars in Syria, Somalia, Yemen. Libya and many other places where military conflict has become the norm with few attempts to bring it to an end. The way is open for unforeseeable events – like the assassination of Daria Dugina or the fighting around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant this week – to shape and escalate the conflict. Few of the lack-lustre crop of world leaders show much sign of understanding the politics of war which is very different from the politics of peace.

Cockburn’s Pick

At one moment everybody was arguing for or against Sweden’s light touch approach to coping with the Covid-19 epidemic, and then the issue dropped out of the news agenda. I found this piece by Emma Frans for The Conversation informative about what really happened.

Patrick Cockburn is the author of War in the Age of Trump (Verso).