Travel from the United Kingdom to the European Union should be ‘advised against’ due to concerns of the coronavirus mutant variant, but travel bans should be lifted, Brussels said.
The European Commission proposed collective action by EU members after the implementation of emergency restrictions by individual countries.
The most dramatic action came from France, which closed its border to trucks crossing the River, causing more than 1,500 trucks to be stranded in Kent.
@EU Commission Proposal to ensure a structured approach to travel restrictions:
Non-essential travel is prohibited, but transport should be encouraged. Flight and train prohibitions should be terminated: interruption of the supply chain must be avoided.https://t.co/4oSbI7MbCo#coronavirus pic.twitter.com/hLLKTxruODD
– Daniel Ferrie (@DanielFerrie) 22/12/2020
The EU-wide approach recommended by the Commission would allow critical travel and promote the transit of passengers.
In view of the need to ensure critical travel and prevent supply chain disturbances, flight and train bans should be discontinued, said the commission.
“Member states should take coordinated action to discourage non-essential travel between the UK and the EU.” EU Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said.
At the same time, though, “at the same time, blanket travel bans should not prevent thousands of EU and UK citizens from returning home.”
Adina Valean, Commissioner for Transport, said, “Within the EU, it is crucial that transport workers are exempt from any restrictive measures.”
Tests for truck drivers were also discussed in the talks between Britain and France to address the cross-channel crisis.
In order to prevent damage, the EU guideline recommended using rapid tests.
“Freight flows must continue to flow uninterrupted…. not least to ensure the timely distribution of vaccines such as Covid-19.” the commission said.
British ministers insisted that the disruption did not impact shipments of the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine produced in Belgium.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said on Tuesday morning that 650 trucks were queuing at the former airfield site in Manston, Kent, on the M20 and 873 because ferry services to Dover and the Channel Tunnel were blocked.
Ms. Patel said that the government was “constantly” talking with France to reach a compromise to get freight traffic moving again “in both our interests”
She defended the government’s handling of the pandemic, stressing that ministers had been “ahead of the curve” in fighting the coronavirus on BBC Radio 4’s Today show.
Due to the mutated form of the coronavirus, which spreads more quickly than previous strains, over 40 countries around the world have banned flights from the United Kingdom.
Andrew Opie, Food and Sustainability Director at the British Retail Consortium, said the borders really need to be reasonably open by tomorrow to reassure us that food supplies will not be “no disruption”
He told the Today show, “There’s a potential problem right after Christmas and that’s really with fresh produce, so we’re talking about things like lettuce, vegetables, fresh fruit, the vast majority of which comes from Europe at this time.”
Empty trucks stuck in Kent that can’t fly to the continent to refill fresh produce are the main problem, he said.
Trucks parking (Andrew Matthews/PA) on the M20 in Kent.
Ms Patel said that “there is enough food in the supermarkets” while 20 per cent of products come through the short channel crossing.
We have fresh produce coming via other routes, not only the short strait, but also air freight, so I believe we need to take a balanced approach.
On Monday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron, stressing that the possibility of a “lone driver sitting alone in the cabin is really very low.” transmission is really very low.
The European head of the World Health Organization, Hans Kluge, said restricting travel to curb the spread of the new version was “prudent” before more information was available, but “essential goods” supply chains and important travel “should remain possible.”
On Monday evening, the M20 in Kent was closed to allow Operation Brock to be carried out, which uses a movable barrier to maintain traffic on the freeway when the canal is interrupted.