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France blocks lorry freight from UK as part of travel ban

“Brexit stockpiling is one thing, the Christmas rush is another thing, but the absolute hammer blow now is to close the borders for 48 hours,” the Road Haulage Association said tonight.

FRANCE HAS BLOCKED all lorry freight from the UK as concerns mount about a new strain of the pandemic coronavirus.

French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari announced tonight that the country was suspending all traffic – air, rail and sea – from the UK from midnight for at least 48 hours.

The Port of Dover in Kent said it is “closed to all accompanied traffic leaving the UK until further notice due to border restrictions in France”. 

It comes as nations across Europe, including Ireland, moved to halt inbound flights from the UK in a bid to prevent the spread of a coronavirus mutation sweeping through London and the south east of England.

Rod McKenzie, from the Road Haulage Association, told Sky News that 10,000 lorries a day crossed between Dover and Calais in France.

He added: “Brexit stockpiling is one thing, the Christmas rush is another thing, but the absolute hammer blow now is to close the borders for 48 hours.

“That is a serious disruption of the all important supply chain.”

Logistics UK, formerly the Freight Transport Association, tweeted: “Logistics UK is aware of news that accompanied freight to France is being not allowed for 48 hours; we are concerned about the welfare of drivers and we are urgently seeking more information for our members.”

In a statement, Food and Drink Federation (FDF) CEO Ian Wright said: “Tonight’s suspension of accompanied freight traffic from the UK to France has the potential to cause serious disruption to UK Christmas fresh food supplies and exports of UK food and drink.

Continental truckers will not want to travel here if they have a real fear of getting marooned. The Government must very urgently persuade the French government to exempt accompanied freight from its ban.”

Some of the comments were echoed by Andrew Opie, of the British Retail Consortium, who said: “The closure of France to UK traffic, including accompanied freight poses difficulties for UK capacity to import and export key goods during the busy Christmas period.

While goods can enter from France, few haulage firms will be willing to send trucks and drivers across to the UK without a guarantee they can return to the EU in a timely manner. This is a key supply route for fresh produce at this time of year: the Channel crossings see 10,000 trucks passing daily during peak periods such as in the run up to Christmas.

“We urge the UK Government and the EU to find a pragmatic solution to this as soon as possible, to prevent disruption for consumers. Retailers have stocked up on goods ahead of Christmas which should prevent immediate problems.

“However, any prolonged closure of the French border would be a problem as the UK enters the final weeks before the transition ends on 31 December.”

British Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has said people should avoid travelling to Kent ports.

“Following the French Government’s announcement it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK for the next 48hrs, we’re asking the public and particularly hauliers not to travel to Kent ports or other routes to France,” he tweeted. 

“We expect significant disruption in the area.

“My department is urgently working with Highways England and Kent Council on contingency measures to minimise traffic disruption in the area.

“We will share more details on these shortly.”

Rail services

The Belgian government also announced its borders with the UK will close at midnight on Sunday.

The Eurostar rail service said on its website that due to the French and Belgian border closures with the UK it was unable to run any trains from London to Paris, Brussels, Lille or Amsterdam on Monday or Tuesday.

It added: “We are also unable to run trains from Amsterdam, Brussels and Lille to London on these dates. We can confirm that our trains will continue to operate from Paris to London.

“The plan is to resume all our train services to and from the UK on 23 Wednesday December.”

It said it was awaiting further details from relevant governments on how travel restrictions will be enforced.

Meanwhile, Eurotunnel tweeted that its last shuttle service departing for France left at 9.34pm, with access to its UK site prohibited from 10pm.

Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the Government’s Cobra civil contingencies committee tomorrow, Downing Street has said. It is understood the inclusion of freight traffic came as a surprise this evening. 

A No 10 spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister will chair a COBR meeting tomorrow to discuss the situation regarding international travel, in particular the steady flow of freight into and out of the UK. Further meetings are happening this evening and tomorrow morning to ensure robust plans are in place.”

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