EU transport chief criticises France for UK border lorry chaos

24 December 2020, 00:43

Vehicles wait at the entrance to the Port of Dover, that is blocked by police
Vehicles wait at the entrance to the Port of Dover, that is blocked by police. Picture: PA

By Megan White

The EU's transport chief has criticised France for banning lorries from entering from the UK, saying the country "went against our recommendations" by shutting the border.

European Commissioner for Transport Adina Valean branded the incident a "crisis" and that she "deplores that France went against our recommendations."

Ms Valean said around 10,000 truck drivers are hoping to return to the EU and urged other countries "not to apply holiday driving bans, to allow drivers to get back to their families for Christmas."

Read more: Lorry drivers clash with police in Dover as French border reopens

Thousands of lorries were stuck in Kent after France closed cross-Channel routes in response to fears about the spread of a new, more infectious, coronavirus strain, which is spreading in the UK.

The route reopened on Wednesday morning, but hauliers must now be able to show proof of a negative test carried out within the past 72 hours in order to be able to cross into France.

In a series of tweets, Ms Valean wrote: "Around 10,000 truck drivers are seeking to get back in the EU. Other thousands are already in the Dover area in their vehicles.

Freight lorries lined up in Manston, Kent, after French authorities announced that journeys from the UK will be allowed to resume
Freight lorries lined up in Manston, Kent, after French authorities announced that journeys from the UK will be allowed to resume. Picture: PA

"We worked hard these days to unblock a crisis between two European countries, France and the UK.

"We issued a communication appealing for proportional, non-discriminatory measures and the lift of any restrictions for transport workers.

"I am pleased that at this moment, we have trucks slowly crossing the channel, and I want to thank UK authorities that they started testing the drivers at a capacity of 300 tests per hour.

"I deplore that France went against our recommendations and brought us back to the situation we were in in March when the supply chains were interrupted.

"I hope that the Member States respond quickly to our request to relax the driving and rest times rules and, specifically, not to apply holiday driving bans, to allow drivers to get back to their families for Christmas."

The Manston Airfield site has become the main testing centre, with drivers required to self-administer the tests in their cabs under supervision.

Stranded lorry drivers clashed with police officers at Dover after the border was reopened on Wednesday, with the two sides said to be in a "stand-off" as tensions ran high at the port.

Drivers were filmed jeering and booing at police and there were some scuffles after reports of delays to the crossing reopening.

Clashes broke out when tensions boiled over after drivers who had been queueing at Dover were told by police to report for testing at Manston, a driver told LBC today.