French president Emmanuel Macron has said he will reopen the border between France and the UK, after closing it at 11pm last night over fears about an outbreak of a new coronavirus strain in England.
The French government is pledging to "resume movement" as soon as possible but is insisting that lorry drivers coming from Great Britain must register a negative Covid test upon arrival.
Trucks turned away
France closed its border to incoming accompanied freight from the UK for 48 hours from 11pm last night.
In reaction, the Port of Dover closed its ferry terminal for all accompanied traffic leaving the UK until further notice.
Some 10,000 lorries pass through Dover each day in both directions, delivering 20% of all goods bought and sold in Great Britain.
Transport minister Grant Shapps MP last night urged hauliers not to travel to Kent ports of Dover and Folkestone while the EU decides what to do next.
The BBC reports that the Department for Transport was preparing Manston Airport in Kent to take up to 4,000 lorries to ease congestion in the county.
As news emerged of a new strain of Covid-19 in England, France was among a number of countries, including Canada, Ireland, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands and Belgium, that announced they were temporarily halting incoming flights and other transport from the UK.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who announced a travel ban as part of new Tier 4 restrictions for parts of England on Saturday after a surge in Covid-19 case numbers, is chairing a meeting of the government's Cobra emergency committee today.
A No 10 spokesperson said the government had supply chain contingency plans for “the steady flow of freight into and out of the UK” which would be discussed at the meeting.
‘Uncertainty’ for hauliers
Rod McKenzie, head of policy and public affairs at the Road Haulage Association, described the closure as a “massive blow to the UK supply chain in Christmas week” after days of queuing chaos at Dover because of stockpiling and the Christmas rush.
Speaking after the announcement by French authorities last night (Sunday 21 December), McKenzie described the reaction of hauliers as one of “real confusion and uncertainty”.
Food and Drink Federation (FDF) chief executive Ian Wright warned that the block on accompanied freight travelling 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".
Truck driver fears
Freight arriving from France was permitted to disembark in Dover last night, though there are fears some lorry drivers will not want to travel to the UK for fear of getting stuck on this side of the Channel.
France's leading haulage union warned that "no trucker wants to deliver" to Britain amid the new strain.
Freight into Ireland
The Republic of Ireland also introduced a 48-hour travel ban on passengers from the UK yesterday, though stopped short of banning UK freight from disembarking at Dublin Port.
Dublin is a busy hub for freight destined for Republic of Ireland towns and cities but also for those in Northern Ireland.