Vanessa Ibarlucea , a spokeswoman for the French national road haulage federation, FNTR , said: “They are stuck in lorry parks with no toilets – it’s becoming a catastrophe. “No driver wants to deliver to the UK now, so the UK is going to see its freight supply dry up.” The United Kingdom on Monday became shut off from the rest of Europe after its closest allies cut transport ties due to fears about a new coronavirus strain, sowing chaos for families and companies just days before it exits the European Union’s orbit.
Her concerns echoed those of Road Haulage Association (RHA) chief executive Richard Burnett during an interview with BBC Radio 4’s Today programme earlier.
He said: “The concern that we do have though is that with it being so close to Christmas we’re looking at 48 hours at this point in time in terms of the restrictions, we’re likely to see Operation Stack building in terms of numbers of vehicles on the UK side and that might be a deterrent for EU hauliers to want to come so close to Christmas and end up being stranded here, that’s part of the challenge that we’re facing today.
“I think what Government are looking at, at this point in time, is actually bringing forward their contingency plans that they’d got laid out for the New Year in terms of (post-Brexit) transition and potentially if we start to see a significant number of vehicles parked on the M20 then we may well actually open up some of the truck parks in Kent, possibly Manston in order to take high levels of vehicles.
“I did have a conversation with Grant Shapps (Transport Secretary) last night and he has assured me that he’s working hard with his French counterparts to ensure this issue is resolved as quickly as possible.”
British supermarket group Sainsbury’s warned on Monday that gaps will start to appear on shelves within days if transport ties are not quickly restored with mainland Europe.
The movement of freight from France has been halted as part of a wider suspension of travel links with Britain to try to curb a new faster spreading strain of COVID-19.
The French government has closed its border to arrivals from the UK for 48 hours which means no lorries can leave the English port of Dover, the main gateway to Europe.
A Sainsbury’s spokesman said: “If nothing changes, we will start to see gaps over the coming days on lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit – all of which are imported from the continent at this time of year.”
(More to follow)