Canal transport halted as EU countries ban travel to UK via Covid variant


At least 10 European countries banned travel from the UK on Sunday over concern over a new, more contagious strain of Covid-19 in Britain, as France halted the transport of goods across the Channel.

Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Austria, Ireland and the Netherlands were among the first countries to ban people coming from the UK after a sharp rise in coronavirus cases.

Paris’ decision to impose a 48-hour blockade on people and road freight arriving in France from Britain from Monday has resulted in the closure of transport services across the Channel, especially between Dover and Calais.

This has raised the prospect of crippling delays on the UK’s main freight link with the EU, which typically handles up to 10,000 trucks a day.

Boris Johnson, British Prime Minister, will chair an emergency meeting of officials on Monday to discuss ways to ensure the flow of goods to the UK.

It comes at a difficult time in Britain’s negotiations to leave the EU, with negotiations on a trade deal continuing ahead of the UK’s planned departure from the single market on January 1.

After an emergency internal cabinet meeting, the office of French Prime Minister Jean Castex announced on Sunday: “It has been decided to suspend. . . all movement of persons, including those relating to the transport of goods, by road, air, sea or rail from the United Kingdom. . . The flow of people and transport to the UK is not affected. ”

The command temporarily stops the Channel freight route. Half of all goods traded between the UK and the EU, and around 90% of truck traffic, cross the Strait of Dover canal.

French officials said the 48-hour suspension would give the 27 EU member states time to coordinate their response. They are considering a system allowing traffic from the UK, with Covid-19 testing before departure, from December 22.

Road approaches in England and France to the main freight routes crossing the Channel had already been congested for two weeks, largely due to storage by British companies before the imposition of customs controls between Britain and the EU January 1.

The French decision alarmed British industry. Although freight was still allowed into England from France, carriers were wondering whether to make the trip if the trucks couldn’t return.

“Although goods can enter from France, few transport companies will be willing to send trucks and drivers to the UK without having the guarantee of being able to return to the EU in a timely manner,” said British Retail Consortium.

On Sunday Eurotunnel announced that its service from the UK to the mainland would be suspended for passenger and freight traffic from 11 p.m. for 48 hours due to the French initiative.

Shortly after, the Port of Dover announced that it was closing its ferry terminal to traffic bound for France. Meanwhile, Eurostar announced that it was not running Monday between London, Brussels and Amsterdam, as well as Paris and Lille.

The Road Haulage Association said the Eurotunnel service will continue to carry traffic to Britain from the EU. He was awaiting confirmation that ferry operators would be routing empty ships from Dover to France in order to return with EU trucks.

Richard Burnett, leader of the group, said the government would have no choice but to launch Operation Stack, the queuing system on the M20 motorway in Kent used to manage truck backlogs during meteorological and technical delays.

“The problem is, if you’re a European carrier coming to the UK and you know Operation Stack is in place, then are you likely to travel to the UK knowing that you will be stranded? The answer is that many will not, and not just before Christmas, ”he said. “This will now test the government to see if it can really handle a crisis like this.”

The new, more contagious strain is believed to originate in south-eastern England, but has already been found in Denmark, Italy and Australia.

Germany, which holds the EU presidency, called an emergency meeting of EU officials on Monday to discuss a coordinated response.

Emmanuel Macron broadcasts from Versailles on Saturday where he is in isolation after contracting Covid © CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON / EPA-EFE / Shutterstock

French President Emmanuel Macron, who is in isolation after contracting Covid-19, spoke to Angela Merkel, German Chancellor, as well as European Commission and Council Presidents Ursula von der Leyen and Charles Michel, a declared the Elysee Palace.

The German government said on Sunday afternoon that it was introducing an “immediate and temporary” ban on British flights “to protect the German population”.

Jens Spahn, Minister of Health, said: “It is important to prevent him from entering Germany, continental Europe. ”

The Netherlands confirmed that it detected a case of the same strain in early December and is investigating. KLM flies planes from the UK to Amsterdam with freight but not passengers. It still takes passengers on inbound flights to the UK.

Ireland has banned passenger flights and ferries from Britain from midnight Sunday for at least two days. Ferry crossings will continue to evolve supply chains.

Reportage de Jim Pickard, Sam Fleming, Peter Foster, Guy Chazan, Victor Mallet, Daniel Dombey, Davide Ghiglione, Leslie Hook, Arthur Beesley, Sam Jones et Richard Milne


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