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Brexit: COVID-19 isolation gives Britain a taste of chaos without a deal

Dozens of countries in Europe and around the world have suspended flights from the United Kingdom, and the French government announced a 48-hour ban on truck drivers using ferry and rail lines from England to France after the highly contagious coronavirus mutation was blamed for the Christmas lockdown on Thursday. London and surrounding areas.

UK store and supply chain experts have warned of potential shortages of some products if French restrictions aren’t eased soon. The UK government held a Crisis meeting Monday.
One major supermarket chain, Sainsbury (JSAIY), She said she had stocked enough produce to keep the Brits from going without Christmas dinner, but warned of a shortage of some fresh fruits and vegetables if the situation did not improve soon.

“If nothing changes, we will start to see gaps in the coming days in lettuce, salad leaves, cauliflower, cauliflower and citrus fruits – all imported from the European Union at this time of year,” Sainsbury said in a statement. Hopefully the UK and France [governments] They can come up with a solution that prioritizes the immediate passage of products and food. “

January can be a tough month

Prime Minister Boris Johnson sought to assuage public concerns at a news conference on Monday, saying he had spoken with French President Emmanuel Macron and that the two sides were working on a quick solution.

He stressed that the British supermarket supply chains are “strong and strong,” and that “the vast majority of food and medicine supplies come and go as usual.”

The industry that operates frozen and refrigerated storage facilities and temperature-controlled vehicles has said there is no reason for shoppers to panic, given that the UK food supply chain was well stocked at the peak of the holiday.

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“As we learned in March, the biggest reason for running out of products on the shelves would be excessive and unnecessary buying,” said Shane Brennan, CEO of Cold Chain Association. We encourage everyone to do their part and buy only what they really need.

But “urgent agreements” were needed between the UK and EU governments if problems were to be avoided in the new year. “A prolonged period of shutdown now will cause major problems for supply chains in January,” Brennan added.

This sentiment has been echoed by the British Retail Consortium, which represents more than 170 major retailers as well as thousands of smaller companies.

“Retailers are stockpiling merchandise before Christmas, which should prevent immediate problems,” said Andrew Obie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium. However, any prolonged closure of the French border would be a problem with the UK entering the final weeks before [Brexit] The transition ends in [Dec. 31]. “

The Brexit factor

UK ports were already under severe pressure before the new variant of the Coronavirus wreaked havoc at the border.

The United Kingdom left the European Union earlier this year, but continues to enjoy free trade with the European Union market of 450 million people under transitional arrangements that expire on December 31. Talks about a new agreement to avoid tariffs and quotas imposed on about half of Britain. Foreign trade remained at a standstill over the weekend, and the risk of Brexit ending without a trade deal remains high.

Stockpiling ahead of the end of the Brexit transition and an increase in orders over the Christmas holidays have created massive bottlenecks in recent days. Last week, CNN reporters Saw trucks It was backed up for more than 10 miles when approaching Port Dover, as truck drivers reported waiting for several hours.

Dover accounts for around 17% of the UK merchandise trade. It handled 2.4 million trucks in 2019, and another 1.6 million passed through the nearby Eurotunnel tunnel down the canal.

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Companies are increasingly concerned that the Brexit deal will not materialize, and they have been racing to get goods into the country before the end of the year. New customs checks and documents will lead to significant delays in shipments, while tariffs and quotas will build up in a “no-deal” scenario.

Earlier this month, it was Honda He was forced to stop production At a large plant in England due to late delivery of parts, a sign of how quickly supply chain problems can cause disruptions. Honda said on Monday that it is monitoring the situation in British ports, adding that it does not expect any impact on production at the moment.

Toyota also said it decided to close its factories in France and the United Kingdom earlier than planned for the winter break.

The company blamed the UK traffic bans from a growing number of countries and the “uncertain nature of the length of time that borders will be closed due to logistical activities”.

France said on Monday it wants a new European health protocol that allows cross-border traffic to resume, while British dealers are calling on truck drivers to test for Covid-19 in order to restore confidence.

“We have our drivers who do not want to go to the UK because of fear that they will not be able to return because the borders are closed,” said Vanessa Iberlucia, spokeswoman for the French National Road Transport Association. “This would cause an issue with potentially disrupted flows, and thus cause supplies to dry up across the channel ahead of Brexit Day.”

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Robert North, Hannah Ziyadi, Sarah Dean, Fanny Bobby, Fanny Wang and Stephanie Hallas contributed to the report.

Harold Manning

"Infuriatingly humble social media ninja. Devoted travel junkie. Student. Avid internet lover."

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