UK supermarket shelves could soon be empty as France's Covid-19 ban on UK trucks aims to keep continental hauliers from delivering essential festive groceries, industry leaders have warned.
The port of Dover was closed for the next 48 hours tonight for all freight vehicles leaving the UK after France after the Mutant Covid-19 strain that plunged London and the Southeast into Tier 4.
Freight forwarders coming to the UK from France are still allowed to enter, but there are fears that truck drivers will not travel to avoid being “stranded” in the UK.
Ian Wright, CEO of the Food and Drink Federation, said: “Today's suspension of escorted freight from the UK to France could seriously disrupt fresh food supplies and UK food and drink exports this Christmas.
“Continental truckers won't want to travel here if they're really afraid of getting stranded.
"The government urgently needs to convince the French government to exempt escorted cargo from its ban."
The port of Dover was closed to the next escorted traffic to leave the UK for the next 48 hours after France imposed an entry ban. Pictured: truck queue on the M20 in Folkestone
The French government, along with a number of other European countries, has banned inbound flights from the UK. Pictured: passengers at King & # 39; s Cross St Pancras station queue to board in London for Paris
Yesterday evening the Department of Transportation announced that Manston Airport in Kent was ready to accommodate "up to 4,000 trucks" to ease congestion in Kent following the travel ban to France and warned shippers to avoid traveling to the ports in Kent . "until further notice & # 39 ;.
Kent Police implemented Operation Stack when parts of the M20 were put aside to queue up trucks en route to the continent.
This came after Transport Secretary Grant Shapps urged freight forwarders not to travel to the ports of Kent, as the closure of the France-UK border is expected to cause "significant disruption".
The French government, along with a number of other European countries, banned inbound flights from the UK to prevent the spread of a coronavirus mutation in London and south-east England.
Mr Shapps tweeted on Sunday evening: “Following the announcement by the French government that it will not accept passengers from the UK for the next 48 hours, we are asking the public, and freight forwarders in particular, not to travel to the ports of Kent or other routes into France.
& # 39; We expect significant disruption in the region. My department is working urgently with Highways England and Kent Council on emergency response measures to minimize traffic disruption in the area.
In the meantime, Eurotunnel has tweeted that its last shuttle service to France would leave at 9:34 p.m. Access to its UK location is prohibited after 10 p.m. Pictured: Employees board the last Eurostar train from London to Paris
"We will provide more details on this shortly."
Previously, French Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari had confirmed that the country would suspend all traffic from Great Britain for at least 48 hours from midnight.
The port of Dover tweeted on Sunday evening that its ferry terminal was "closed to all accompanied traffic from Great Britain until further notice due to border restrictions in France".
Its website states: “Both escorted freight and passenger customers are asked not to enter the port.
& # 39; We understand that the restrictions will apply for 48 hours from midnight (CET).
"We apologize for the inconvenience and will provide an update as soon as possible."
The port of Dover tweeted on Sunday evening that its ferry terminal was "closed to all accompanied traffic from Great Britain until further notice due to border restrictions in France". Pictured: The cargo in Folkestone is about to enter the Channel Tunnel
It added, "The Port of Dover Cargo Terminal, Marina and other areas of the port will remain open."
In the meantime, Eurotunnel has tweeted that its last shuttle service to France would leave at 9:34 p.m. Access to its UK location is prohibited after 10 p.m.
Rod McKenzie of the Road Haulage Association told Sky News that 10,000 trucks travel between Dover and Calais in France every day.
He added: “Brexit stockpiling is one thing, the Christmas frenzy is another, but the absolute hammer now is to close the borders for 48 hours.
"This is a serious disruption to the main supply chain."
Logistics UK, formerly the Freight Transport Association based in Tunbridge Wells, tweeted: & # 39; Logistics UK is aware that escorting cargo to France is not allowed for 48 hours. We are concerned for the welfare of drivers and are urgently looking for more information for our members. & # 39;
Sir Roger Gale, MP for Tory Kent, urged No. 10 and Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, to come to terms with the developing situation on the border between Great Britain and France.
The queue for trucks for the port of Dover along the A20 in Kent as Dover TAP (Traffic Access Protocol) was implemented earlier this week
He tweeted: & # 39; Cross Channel Travel Chaos. Don't try to blame the transportation department. Time for number ten and & # 39; CDL & # 39; to get a grip on yourself. & # 39;
The Belgian government also announced that its borders with Great Britain will close at midnight on Sunday.
Eurostar rail transport announced on its website on Sunday evening that it would not be able to run trains from London to Paris, Brussels, Lille or Amsterdam on Monday or Tuesday due to the French and Belgian border closings.
Trucks are queuing to enter the port of Dover on Friday as the UK has a chance to strike a Brexit trade deal expires
The connections from Amsterdam, Brussels and Lille to London would also not operate on these days, but the trains from Paris to London continue to operate.
The rail company said it plans to resume all connections to and from the UK on Wednesday and is awaiting further details from governments responsible for enforcing travel restrictions.
It comes after the queues in Dover reached 20 miles of long traffic jams in Calais earlier this week as thousands of trucks – many full of Christmas gifts and groceries – tried to cross the canal amid the chaos at UK container ports.
Trucks wait outside the port of Dover along the A20 in Kent amid heavy freight traffic on Friday
Trucks are lined up in Dover on Friday as the UK tries to secure a deal before the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31
Extraordinary photos taken over the M20 in Kent showed vehicles moving from bumper to bumper as companies hold onto stocks later in the month in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
And across the water in France, trucks lined two lanes for miles in Calais as they tried to catch a ferry to Dover or the Channel Tunnel to Folkestone before the busiest shopping week of the year.
Retailers say items they ordered for Christmas in August still haven't arrived in the UK due to the shipping chaos caused by Covid-19 in China and UK unloading issues with containers being offloaded in Zeebrugge, Belgium are.
British firms are bleeding £ 1 million or more because deliveries have been delayed and prices have quadrupled. The cost of moving a container from Qingdao, China to the UK is now £ 7,500 per load – up from £ 2,000.
Three main problems causing delays in UK ports
Problems in ports are caused by a number of problems occurring simultaneously and not unique to the UK. Industry insiders say that there are three main problems behind the chaos:
COVID – Lack of shipping containers
The system for shipping goods around the world stopped working properly when the economies closed and reopened at different times when they dealt with Covid.
This left shipping companies lagging behind when it came to fetching empty containers from European ports and bringing them back to factories in Asia.
The container shortage is exacerbated by the shortage of manpower across the global supply chain – including seafarers, shippers and warehouse workers – due to illness or quarantine.
The problems caused by Covid have been exacerbated by an increase in demand caused by:
BREXIT – Customs and storage
If the UK leaves the EU without an agreement, tariffs will be applied to imported goods according to World Trade Organization rules at the end of the transition period.
Companies therefore store goods for fear of having to pay customs duties or because they fear that new customs procedures after Brexit will delay imports.
Around Christmas, the demand for goods keeps rising, which makes the problems worse.
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