France tipped to end UK truck ban

David Hughes
·2-min read

France appears set to end a ban on truck drivers crossing the Channel which was imposed due to fears about the spread of the new coronavirus strain.

Transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said a protocol would be adopted at a European Union-wide level "to ensure that movement from the UK can resume".

The UK has been cut off from large parts of Europe - and some other areas of the world - as authorities imposed bans on passengers because of concern about the more infectious mutant coronavirus.

The most dramatic intervention came from France, which put in place a ban on hauliers crossing the English Channel with their cargo.

Djebbari said: "In the next few hours, at European level, we're going to establish a solid health protocol to ensure that movement from the UK can resume.

"Our priority: to protect our nationals and our fellow citizens."

Boris Johnson will chair a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee to discuss the situation on Monday afternoon.

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said emergency measures were being put in place to cope with a backlog of lorries heading for the Channel ports.

But he sought to play down the potential impact, stressing that container freight was not hit by the ban on people crossing the border.

Shapps said he was talking to French counterpart Djebbari and told Sky News: "The absolute key is to get this resolved as soon as possible."

The chief executive of the Road Haulage Association (RHA), Richard Burnett, said the disruption could cause problems with "fresh food supply" in the run-up to Christmas.

Sainsbury's warned that if the disruption continued there could be "gaps over the coming days" in the supply of lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit - all of which are imported from the continent at this time of year.

Johnson faced demands to recall Parliament to address the crisis, which follows the introduction of a new Tier 4 level of lockdown on London and large parts of south-east England.

Concerns about the spread of the new variant also led to the dramatic scaling back of Christmas plans, with mixing banned in Tier 4 and the three-household provision being allowed for just Christmas Day itself in the rest of England.

Among the authorities imposing travel restrictions on passengers from the UK are: France, Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Austria, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Denmark, El Salvador, Turkey, Canada and Hong Kong.

They reacted after Mr Johnson announced that the new variant was up to 70 per cent more transmissible than the original strain, while Health Secretary Matt Hancock admitted it was "out of control" and the Tier 4 lockdown may have to remain in place for months.