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The UK is bracing for potential food shortages as France closes borders to trade due to the new COVID-19 strain

Folkestone, England – A line of trucks stretched miles back from the entrance to the Canal Tunnel here on Monday, as the UK braces for potential food shortages and manufacturers fear further disruptions if France continues to ban freight and passengers from Britain to stop the spread of a new strain of coronavirus. .

Transfer to Entering the bar from the UK. Announced by Paris late Sunday, it cut Britain’s main shipping line with Europe, leading to the shutdown of trade between ports such as Dover and Calais that handle up to 10,000 trucks per day.

EurotunnelAnd the

Which operates a rail tunnel linking Britain and France, has also halted all freight and passenger services at a time when the UK was already struggling with higher traffic volumes for the Christmas period and its imminent exit from the European Union customs union on January 1.

Mike Sellar, a truck driver from Kent, England, was due to travel from Dover on Monday night to buy rice cakes from Brussels, but he thinks he won’t make another trip until after Christmas.

He said, “It’s a complete joke.”

The travel ban, initially set for 48 hours, as a group of countries, including Germany, Canada and Denmark, banned travelers from Britain came after a new British official said, A more transmissible strain of coronavirus It was responsible for the increase in the number of cases in London and the southeast of England.

Already, Denmark, the Netherlands and Belgium have confirmed a small number of cases of the new coronavirus strain, which scientists believe could be 70% more transmissible than the existing strains.

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Officials from European countries met Monday to discuss how to respond, while the British prime minister

Boris Johnson

He said Monday that delays affect around a fifth of shipments moving between the UK and Europe.

He said: “We in the United Kingdom fully understand the concern of our friends about Covid, and their concern about the new alternative.” Johnson added that he had spoken by phone with French President Emmanuel Macron and had been hoping to ease restrictions, saying that most food, medicine and other supplies came and went as usual.

Grant Shaps, Britain’s transport secretary, said that as of Monday evening, there were about 170 trucks parked on the highway to the docks, down from 500 Sunday evening.

The lockdown has added a new dimension to the complexities that the epidemic presents to trade. While many countries during the pandemic have imposed certain restrictions on travel from Britain and elsewhere – such as mandatory quarantines – cargo was always allowed to move freely in and out of the UK, until Sunday evening.

Ian Wright, chief executive of British trade group The Food and Beverage Federation, said the travel suspension has the potential to disrupt supplies of fresh food at Christmas. ”

Continental

Truck drivers wouldn’t want to travel here if they had a real fear of being stranded.

France, Israel and Canada are some of the countries that have banned travelers from entering Britain in an attempt to prevent a new highly contagious strain of the Corona virus that is spreading rapidly in England. Photo: Getty Images

J Sainsbury

PLC, the UK’s second largest grocery chain, said there could be a shortage of lettuce and some citrus vegetables and fruits in the coming days if a solution cannot be found.

Other companies are anxious about offering products to customers on the other side of the English Channel.

This is a disaster … trucks loaded with hundreds of thousands of pounds [of shellfish] Heading to Dover now, “Loch Fyne Seafarms Ltd., a Scottish seafood company, tweeted in the wake of the shipping ban.

Delays in ports may also affect manufacturers who rely on so-called supply chains in a timely fashion, as the arrival of parts is closely coordinated with assembly.

For example, Toyota Motor Corp. used to keep only four hours of spare parts in its car plant in the UK, and relied on 50 trucks entering Britain every day to build its cars. The company had previously informed lawmakers that a three-week strike by French ferry staff in 2015 had disrupted Toyota supplies for two months.

Jack Simpel, UK trade group secretary, Engineering & Machinery Alliance, said many manufacturers have stocks, but these supply chains are so integrated with the rest of Europe that the current disruption is a major concern.

“This concern will escalate quickly if people think this will continue for more than 48 hours,” he said.

Nerves were already on the edge of a precipice at Folkestone.

Christian Verdula, a 38-year-old Romanian truck driver, said he plans to sleep in his truck overnight after he has delivered a shipment of chicken. It will be parked in a row of trucks on the side of the highway leading to the port, next to open fields without access to bathrooms or food services. He said he had enough to eat for a day or two. After that, he wasn’t sure what to do.

“It’s a problem,” said Mr. Fardula mockingly.

Beiser Georgiev, a 37-year-old construction worker from Bulgaria, sat in his truck outside the entrance to the canal tunnel. He said he packed his belongings at his home in Buckinghamshire and was planning to return to Bulgaria for good, where he would meet his family. He discovered that the borders were closed when he was driving south into the tunnel.

“I have a daughter who is six years old. He told me if she would be happy.

Many of those stuck on the road are concerned that the lockdown on Sunday could herald more unrest once Britain leaves the EU customs union.

A Haulage Exchange poll of British carriers on Monday, which matches cargoes and drivers, found that 96% of those asked said they were not ready to relocate and needed further clarification on border legislation. The UK and the European Union are currently negotiating a potential trade deal but the outcome is uncertain.

“I brought a container of flowers and lettuce from the Netherlands … but I can’t take the ferry to get back in the car,” said Dutch truck driver Arend de Vries, stranded two miles outside Dover. “Covid will be dealt with in the end, but the crowding will continue if there is no agreement with Brexit.”

Write to Alistair MacDonald at [email protected] and Jared Malsin at [email protected]

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Harold Manning

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

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