France It expects to announce a limited reopening of its borders to UK traffic, as the British government has said it is making plans to test all truck drivers transporting goods through the canal for Covid.
“A solution is being worked on and it will be announced during the day,” a French government source said on Tuesday. The “48 hour suspension of traffic from UK” was always an emergency measure, to allow us to find practical solutions and consult with our European partners. ”
British Home Secretary Priti Patel said the government was talking to French authorities about testing all tankers leaving Britain, as they confirmed that more than 1,500 trucks were stuck in Kent on Tuesday morning.
Waiting lists have formed since then France imposed a ban on any shipment or accompanying shipment entering the country from Britain, Triggering the government’s plans for the Dover crisis and other major trouble spots.
“A test of some sort is part of the discussions that the transport minister is having with his counterpart in France now,” Patil told the BBC’s Breakfast.
“These tests can be done and run very quickly, but as far as the details of that are concerned, this is something that both the transport minister and his counterpart will be discussing now, so I do not want to speculate on the nature of the test and when it could be done and put into operation.”
Patel was questioned about Transportation Secretary Grant Shaps’ claim at a Downing Street press conference Monday evening that there were only about 170 trucks waiting to cross the canal, but that it was later contradicted by highways in England, who said there were around 900.
The number of trucks “will fluctuate”, she said, but on Tuesday morning there were 650 on the M20 and another 873 at Manston Airport, which are used as a flow site to ease rear vehicle traffic.
“For example, yesterday there were many transporters disembarking their goods in other parts of the country and then returning to Dover. Of course the first message was to avoid Dover.”
Patel said British and French authorities were working to find a solution to unblock the ports and that Shaps had submitted another update later on Tuesday.
She told Sky News: “It is in our interest, both countries, to make sure that we have a flow and of course there are European carriers at the moment that want to return to the homeland, and quite frankly it is in our interest to continue these discussions and negotiations and we will see what happens today.”
There are concerns about the welfare of truck drivers waiting to cross the canal, with a trade agency saying they were given only one bar of pill each despite being stuck in their taxis for more than 24 hours.
Rod Mackenzie, managing director of the Association for Road Transport, told BBC Breakfast: “These drivers apparently spent a second night parked somewhere, maybe on a highway, maybe somewhere else, trying to cross the canal, and many of them are European drivers trying to come back.” Go home for Christmas, very poor spirits.
“Yesterday, Kent County Council offered each of them just one piece of the cereal, which is a very poor effort, I think, in terms of keeping their morale and morale in mind.”
Toilets were also a “big problem,” MacKenzie said, with concerns about health and hygiene. “We don’t deal with them well as a country, and we don’t deal with truck drivers well in these very difficult conditions that they are in at the moment.”