France to reopen borders to UK freight but lorry queues could last till Christmas Eve

Tue 22 Dec 2020
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

lorry jam

France is to reopen its borders to UK lorry drivers, professionals and French nationals who can provide a negative coronavirus test.

The Guardian reports that an agreement was reached after extensive talks between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and French President Emmanuel Macron.

France is among almost 50 countries to have suspended flights and trains from the UK.

Its suspension of accompanied freight from the UK blocked the crucial Dover-Calais route through which 20% of goods moving between the UK and Europe are transported.

Low risk

The PM played down the risk of lorry drivers spreading the new Covid-19 strain, telling a press conference last night “we believe the risks of transmission by a solitary driver sitting alone in the cab are really very low”.

However, plans to ramp up testing in Kent are being introduced to ease French concerns, according to the Telegraph.

Hopes for Wednesday

According to the BBC, France’s Europe minister Clément Beaune said any plans agreed between the UK and France would come into force tomorrow (Wednesday).

Even if a solution is reached today, the backlog of drivers in Kent means it could take until Christmas Eve for the blockage to be properly resolved. More than 1,500 lorries are currently parked and waiting to leave the UK.

Supply chain impact

The supply chain impact is being felt by the UK’s manufacturers and food producers, with the FT reporting that hauliers are already counting their losses in some cases.

One freight company told the FT that the delay was costing the industry “many millions of pounds every hour”. 

Companies looking to avoid France by taking alternative short crossings to Belgium and the Netherlands discovered that these routes were already fully booked until 4 January.

Christmas meal is safe

Though some imports of fresh produce will be impacted by the current restrictions, most of the ingredients in a traditional British Christmas dinner are produced in the UK, so are not in short supply, retailers told the Guardian.