What happened to cause the lorry chaos in Dover and how many trucks have been affected? Your key questions answered
France closed its border with the UK late on Sunday, initially for 48 hours, as more than 40 countries banned flights from Britain over a new, faster-spreading strain of coronavirus.
The Channel Tunnel remained open for UK-bound traffic but many French hauliers stayed in France.
How did ministers react?
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps held crisis talks with his French counterpart yesterday as the Government warned hauliers to avoid travelling to ports facing France. Operation Stack – whereby the M20 is used for queues of HGVs heading to the coast – was put in place and Manston Airport, an ex-RAF base near Ramsgate, Kent, was readied as a holding pen for thousands of lorries. Both measures are part of No Deal Brexit planning.
Port of Dover was closed after France closed its border with the UK late on Sunday
How is this being resolved?
French government officials initially said the blockade could be resolved ‘within hours’. But there were no signs of a breakthrough yesterday evening and crisis talks between Boris Johnson and Emmanuel Macron are ongoing.
How many lorries have been affected?
Around 6,000 lorries were due to travel between the UK and France yesterday, but on a busy day the Dover Strait can handle up to 10,000. Around 500 lorries had to queue on the M20 but this was down to around 170 by the evening.
Will we face food shortages?
Shoppers have been urged to not panic buy and ministers have played down the threat of shortages. They point out that supermarkets have been stockpiling for weeks due to Brexit and many imports come in via unaccompanied freight, which is not affected by the ban.
Sainsbury’s has warned of possible shortages of lettuce, broccoli and citrus fruit this week. At this time of year, we also get most of our tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers from Europe though most Christmas dinner vegetables are grown in the UK.
Will we still get deliveries of the Covid vaccine?
Mr Shapps said that while some lorries transport the Pfizer/BioNTech jab, it is mostly imported in unaccompanied containers unaffected by the restrictions.
What about presents?
Presents made in China – such as Barbie dolls and Lego – have been caught up in logjams at container ports triggered by pre-existing Brexit stockpiling and the pandemic, but the problems are likely to be exacerbated by the French ban.
As lorries queue on the M20 in Kent, Folkestone and Hythe District Council has defended slapping 15 drivers with fines for parking illegally on laybys
Can I go on holiday?
If you have a holiday booked within the next week or so to a country which has banned flights from Britain, it is highly likely your flight will be cancelled.
The European Commission will publish its proposals for possible measures today. They may include an EU-wide travel ban.
Those living in Tier Four areas are already banned from going abroad.
Is this likely to get worse?
British and French governments seem intent on a swift resolution. French officials have suggested forcing all arrivals to present a negative PCR test. A less disruptive option would see the French and British governments agree to exempt hauliers as most travel alone.
Does this relate to Brexit?
The border closure will be seen by some as political point scoring by Mr Macron, a Brexit critic. Long lines of queuing lorries could also be a taste of things to come.