British Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought a calm note on Monday, saying he was working “as soon as possible” to clear trade on the channel after France closed its borders to UK freight forwarders to contain a new variant of the coronavirus .
After talks with French President Emmanuel Macron over the ban that wreaked havoc in the UK’s important port of Dover and raised food shortage concerns a few days before Christmas, Johnson said supply chains remained “strong and resilient”.
“These delays affect only a very small percentage of the food entering the UK,” the Prime Minister told a press conference, adding that he wanted to resolve the problem “in the next few hours”.
France’s decision on Sunday, originally scheduled to last 48 hours, was made to contain the new strain of the virus discovered in the UK, which official figures say is 70 percent more transmissible.
The ban prompted the UK to come up with Operation Stack, the contingency plan designed to deal with expected cargo congestion on the roads around Dover in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
“A bad ending to a bad year”
Earlier in the day, the Prime Minister convened a meeting of the Cobra Emergency Committee to discuss the situation regarding international travel, and particularly the regular flow of goods.
Travelers trying to leave the UK faced misery when around 30 nations introduced bans on people arriving from the UK to contain the new coronavirus variant of the disease, which British officials said was 70 percent more communicable than the main strain .
The chaos on the streets around the key port is a clear sign of what to expect if the UK leaves the EU without a deal within 10 days.
However, Johnson said that during his call with Macron, the couple “swore” not to discuss Brexit as negotiations between London and Brussels continue.
Road signs near the canal port, through which 10,000 trucks pass daily, urged people to drive home on Monday, saying the French border was closed.
David King, a truck driver from Birmingham in western England, was stranded in Dover to make a delivery to Belgium.
“It’s been a frustrating year, hasn’t it, for everyone. That only adds to it. A bad ending to a bad year,” he told AFP.
“We hope to make it home by Christmas. We’ll just sit tight and wait for decisions to be made out of our hands today,” he added.
A disused airfield will open later on Monday and serve as a truck park for up to 4,000 stranded drivers.
UK supermarket Sainsbury’s warned that prolonged disruption could lead to “gaps in the coming days” in lettuce, cauliflower, broccoli and citrus supplies.
The ban on almost unaccompanied freight traffic to France is due to the fact that companies are trying to relocate goods within a few days until Great Britain finally leaves the EU trade structures.
Those hoping for a deal warned that the current chaotic scenes with no breakthrough could become a familiar sight before the New Years deadline, which could lead to the introduction of new tariffs.
But Brexit supporters accused France of taking advantage of the crisis to force trade concessions.
“The restriction of tourist travel from Great Britain seems to be justified at the moment,” tweeted the think tank of the anti-EU Bruges group.
“However, the French government’s intention to restrict freight transport seems political,” she added.
France and the UK are engaged in a heated debate over fishing rights after Brexit, the crux of the negotiations.
London Mayor Sadiq Khan and Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon were among the leaders on Monday, calling for an extension of the Brexit talks to avoid disruptions in the New Year.
‘Out of control’
Germany, Russia, Canada, Italy, Chile and Argentina are among the countries that have announced flight bans to and from the country.
In response to the restrictions, the UK Postal Service has temporarily suspended delivery of parcels and letters to Europe, with the exception of the Republic of Ireland.
“We are closely monitoring the situation and ready to open our services as soon as we are able to lift the restrictions,” said a Royal Mail statement.
It said it had also suspended flights to Canada and Turkey due to “severely limited” air capacity.
Britain appeared to have gone around the corner in its attempt to fight the virus with the introduction of a vaccine and falling infection rates.
But the emergence of the new strain has messed up the government’s plans just as the blatant finale of talks with the EU is reached.
The government originally announced that it would ease restrictions to allow families to meet over Christmas, but changed its plans after last week presented a terrible analysis of the new tribe that is widespread in south-east England.
The UK government’s chief scientific advisor, Patrick Vallance, said at the press conference on Monday that the transmission of the new variant of Covid had “increased significantly”.
However, he added that the coronavirus vaccine should be effective against him and otherwise the disease “looks just like any other form of Covid infection”.
Britain has been hard hit by the pandemic. More than 67,000 people died positive to the virus.
(This story was not edited by GossipMantri staff and is automatically generated from a syndicated feed.)