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App designed to speed up new EU border process may not be ready in time

An app aimed at reducing disruption due to the EU’s new entry/exit system is unlikely to be ready on time, industry insiders have said.

Under pressure

The European Union is gearing up to implement its long-awaited Entry/Exit System this autumn, requiring biometric data to be registered on arrival to the bloc. Amid fears the system will cause queues at busy travel hubs, a new app has been designed to make the process smoother. The only trouble is: the app is not going to be delivered on time.

Most EU countries are expecting some form of fallout from the implementation of EES, especially longer queues as arrivals’ information is submitted and checked for the first time. Kiosks and mobile devices are being ordered and installed at various travel hubs, some of which have complained they are under pressure to get the infrastructure working on time. 

Why will an EU process affect the UK?

But the UK, even though it is not an EU country any longer, will also experience the direct effects of EES. This is because it operates “juxtaposed” immigration controls, meaning travellers pass through EU borders while they are still on British soil. Fears are growing that the UK’s southern ports and motorways will see long delays, as freight drivers and holidaymakers try to get to grips with the new EES registration.

An app designed to enable travellers to register their details prior to descending on the border is in the offing. It will be “made available for the Schengen countries as from the Entry/Exit System start of operations,” a European Commission Spokesperson has said, speaking to POLITICO.

As late as 2025?

Part of the timeline problem is that it will be up to individual states to provide the public-facing side of the app, according to Jesper Christensen, a director at shipping firm DFDS, who addressed the U.K. parliament’s European Scrutiny Committee last week. “The EU commission will supply the software but each member state will have to provide the face of it, so that could take some time to get it to work.” 

This means the rollout of the app in the UK is not within the UK’s control. Users needing to access the app in the UK before travelling to France will have to wait until the French skin of the app is up and running, and this might not be until 2025, if current estimates are accurate.

Concern

“For the app to be effective it needs to have been fully tested with all types of end-users and in all languages well before the start of operations,” remarked Nichola Mallon of Logistics UK, a trade body which has said it is “concerned.”

Indeed, concern is such that Eurostar has ordered three times more registration kiosks for St Pancras International than it theoretically needs, to cope with delays and disruption projected while the app is in the pipeline.