English Channel

  1. Lorries prepare to leave Kent, finally

    Police and truckers

    The first trucks have started leaving a temporary lorry park in Kent after France reopened its border with the UK.

    It follows clashes with between frustrated hauliers and police, as drivers have become increasingly impatient to get home for Christmas.

    France has lifted its ban on some UK arrivals, but only if they can show proof of a negative Covid test taken less than 72 hours before departure.

    "We are very tired. We're staying in cars, we don't have a lot of food, no money," one lorry driver told the BBC.

    "We just want to do the test and just go straight home," said another.

    A huge backlog of traffic remains. It all adds to the pressure on the authorities to get as many tests done as quickly as possible.

    Read more.

  2. Situation at Dover is 'chaos'

    Crowds gathering at Dover

    Rod McKenzie, from the Road Haulage Association, has described the situation in Dover as "chaos", saying facilities for lorry drivers are inadequate.

    “The government has said the borders are open but actually they’re not. And unfortunately that message having gone out, a lot of lorry drivers have started heading for the ports again," he told the BBC.

    “The testing regime hasn’t started yet and without that starting, the borders can’t effectively open for traffic heading back to France.”

    He said information for lorry drivers on the ground had been "extremely poor" and food provision "very inadequate".

    There are also not enough toilet facilities for the thousands of trucks waiting at Kent's Manston Airport, he added.

    Lorries queueing at Manston Airport
  3. Lib Dems ask PM to declare state of emergency

    The Liberal Democrats have called on the prime minister to declare a state of emergency in Kent.

    According to the Civil Contingencies Act 2004, an emergency can be declared during “an event or situation which threatens serious damage to human welfare in the United Kingdom or in a Part or region.”

    The leader of the Liberal Democrats, Ed Davey, warned that human welfare is seriously at risk in Kent and the prime minister must “act now” or “risk things spiralling further out of control.”

    Mr Davey said: “Without food and access to sanitation, people are in real trouble. If ministers fail to act now and commit the resources needed now, they risk things spiralling further out of control.

    “In the face of the risk to people’s welfare, the prime minister must declare a state of emergency in Kent.”

    A Government spokesperson said:“We are working tirelessly to provide support to hauliers awaiting testing at Manston and the M20.

    “Free food and water is being provided to all, and there are 12 food trucks at Manston with eight more arriving today.

    "More than 200 toilets are in place at Manston, with toilets every kilometre on the M20 between junctions 10a-11.”

  4. Home secretary urges hauliers and tourists to avoid Kent

    falseHome Secretary Priti Patel has repeated calls urging hauliers to avoid Kent, as Dover and much of the surrounding area remains gridlocked.

    Tourists who are not French residents should not be travelling either, she said.

    Priti Patel tweet
  5. 'Disastrous few days' for salmon producers

    Freight lorries lined up at the front of the queue on the runway at Manston Airport,

    A food industry body has warned of a "black Christmas" for fresh food producers, with lorries stuck at border.

    Scottish salmon producers usually export 20 trucks of fresh fish every day via Dover, in the run up to Christmas.

    Tavish Scott, of the Scottish Salmon Producers Organisation said losing access to the European markets was "really, really difficult".

    "We look to export 150 tonnes a day... and that is simply not happening," he said.

    "This is the crucial week in terms of the whole year... and nothing is moving."

    Food and Drink Federation Scotland (FDFS) chief executive David Thomson said: "It's been an absolutely disastrous few days and it will lead to a black Christmas."

    Companies have told the FDFS that the loss of Christmas sales may spell the end of their operation.

    “We’ve heard of companies that are saying this is the final straw for them and that they will not be able to deal with the losses,” Mr Thomson said.

  6. Frustration from lorry drivers waiting to cross Channel

    Simon Jones

    BBC Reporter at the scene at Manston Airport in Kent

    There's a lot of frustration here this morning and we’ve been hearing lorry drivers sounding their horns.

    What we’ve heard from people above all is there is a lack of information - the waiting, the not knowing what’s going to happen.

    View more on twitter

    This morning a lot of people have been turning up on spec, people from Romania and Bulgaria who are in vans, hoping they might be able to get a test.

    I think they will be told they have to go and join the back of the queue on the M20 or potentially if they’re a lorry be allowed on to the site here at Manston Airport, which is being used as a holding facility.

    View more on twitter

    There have also been some scuffles in Dover where lorry drivers are just so frustrated they’ve been gathering near the entrance of the port. They simply want to be allowed to go home.

    But if they’re parked up illegally in Dover or in lay-bys or on verges, they are not going to be the number one priority for getting a test.

  7. 'At least 4000 lorries' could be impacted by France ban

    Lorries on the M20

    At least 4,000 lorries could be impacted by the French travel ban and subsequent blockage at Dover, a food industry chief has told MPs.

    Ian Wright, chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation, told the business, energy and industrial strategy select committee: "I don't think the number of trucks in the queue or other areas is the relevant number.

    "We reckon about 4,000 on their way to Dover at various points.

    "Anyone seeing this all happening in the run-up would have parked somewhere else, somewhere more congenial and in a better state."

  8. 'Trickle, not flood' when border traffic resumes, says Eurotunnel

    BBC Radio 5 Live

    Lorries queueing at Eurotunnel

    It is likely to be a slow process getting through the backlog of vehicles waiting to cross the Channel, according to John Keefe from Eurotunnel.

    Speaking on BBC Radio 5 Live's Wake Up to Money programme earlier, he said: "If everyone arrived at the same moment, it would be difficult. We run six departures per hour, each one carries 32 trucks... somewhere between 180 and 200 trucks per hour.

    "From what we're seeing, there might be some form of testing, so if people have to go through testing first, then it looks like it might start as a trickle rather than a flood," he said.

    "Hopefully, it's just 48 hours and hopefully those trucks will eventually go through because the trucks have to get back to their base, the drivers have to get home.

    "The logistics and transport process is a circuit; it keeps on running in both directions. It's in everybody's interest that that starts up again soon."

  9. EU calls for end of UK travel bans

    Travel bans from the UK to the European Union should be lifted, but people should be "discouraged" from making journeys across the Channel, the European Commission has recommended.

    It has called for a joint approach from EU members after individual countries imposed emergency restrictions, including a 48-hour closure of the border with France.

    Flight and train bans "should be discontinued given the need to ensure essential travel and avoid supply chain disruptions", the commission said.

    EU justice commissioner Didier Reynders said: "Member states should take co-ordinated action to discourage non-essential travel between the UK and the EU."

    But "at the same time, blanket travel bans should not prevent thousands of EU and UK citizens from returning to their homes".

    The transport commissioner, Adina Valean, says it is "crucial transport workers are exempt from any restrictive measures".

  10. Politicians 'hopeful' for agreement

    Laura Kuenssberg

    Political editor

    Queues on the M20 in Kent aren't exactly unheard of, but the French decision to close the border is dramatic and has caused a lot of disruption.

    Politicians on both sides of the Channel are hopeful they might be able to agree a way of getting things moving again before the end of the year.

    But if that requires a massive expansion of testing for coronavirus at the border, that's easy to say, far harder to do.

    Read more from Laura

  11. 'Disappointed and afraid' we will miss Christmas with our families - haulier

    Florian

    Florian, a lorry driver from Romania who has been caught up in the queues at Dover, has been speaking to the BBC.

    After a second night trying to sleep in his vehicle, he said he and other drivers were "disappointed and afraid" they will miss Christmas with their families.

    "We don't know what to do, I have called everywhere if they can help us and no answer, nobody knows. We have to wait."

    He says his family - including his wife and seven-year-old daughter -are waiting for him to return home for Christmas.

    He says he told his daughter that is stuck in Kent because the border is closed, "but she doesn't know what the border is, she says 'you have to come, I wait for you, we have to make the tree for Christmas'".

    Florian adds that he has asked about getting a coronavirus test, and was told he would not be able to get one of the quick turnaround tests, but would have to wait three days for a PCR test.

  12. EU response expected this afternoon

    The EU Commission is due to devise a set of technical recommendations later on how to coordinate the flow of goods and key cargo between the UK and other countries.

    It will also make recommendations on how best member states can repatriate their nationals who are trying to get home.

    As expected, the commission will not recommend a common restrictions policy for member states to follow.

    The announcement, expected this afternoon, will be followed by a meeting of EU ambassadors, who will continue discussions on travel restrictions.

  13. Home secretary: Discussions with French over testing

    Priti Patel

    The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, says discussions are taking place between the UK and French governments in order to resolve the closure of the French border.

    She said: "It is in both our interests to find a resolution and those conversations are taking place.

    "Testing of some sort is part of the discussions that the transport secretary is having with his counterpart in France right now. Getting those tests up and running can happen relatively quickly."

    She said the variant of the virus has been found elsewhere in the world and could also be spreading in Europe.

    "It is in all our interests to keep each other safe, whether it is testing, a vaccine… the tools at our disposal. The government will take all the necessary steps to contain this."