Highways England confirms there were 900 lorries on the M20 on Monday evening

21 December 2020, 23:41 | Updated: 22 December 2020, 00:29

Boris Johnson said 174 lorries were stuck on the M20 when there were 900
Boris Johnson said 174 lorries were stuck on the M20 when there were 900. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

Around 900 lorries were stuck on the M20 on Monday evening - not the 174 that Boris Johnson claimed at a press conference just hours earlier.

Speaking at a Downing Street briefing at 5pm, the PM said there were around 170 lorries queued in Kent after the French banned them from travelling across the Channel.

He also stressed that it was affecting only a small portion - just 20% - of the total number of HGVs attempting to get into Dover.

Read more: France and UK working to reopen border to freight 'as fast as possible'

Read more: Vaccine rollout will not be impacted by freight and travel chaos, Grant Shapps pledges

"It's vital first to stress that these delays which are currently affecting Dover only affect 20% of total arriving or departing to the European continent," he said, "which means the vast majority of food, medicines and other supplies are coming and going as normal."

But Highways England confirmed later on Monday that there were in fact 900 lorries on the motorway at 6pm - shortly after announced it was implementing Operation Brock which hopes to ease congestion by using a 'moveable barrier'.

Boris Johnson expresses desire to resolve border issues with France

Despite attempting to downplay the chaos at the port, the Government is in critical talks with its French counterparts to strike a deal that will clear up the blockage on the motorway.

Mr Johnson said he hopes to resolve the issue within hours.

Currently, vehicles are being sent to Manston Airport, which the Department for Transport said is being prepared to accommodate "up to 4000 lorries" as a measure to ease congestion.

Read more: UK coronavirus travel restrictions: Which countries have banned UK flights?

However, due to the expected level of disruption, the department also advised hauliers to avoid travel to Kent ports "until further notice".

The travel ban has sparked fears that supermarkets could run out of some common items if the issue was not resolved quickly.

Sainsbury's and Tesco have both said they have enough food for customers over Christmas, but warned of potential shortages of items like lettuce, cauliflower and citrus fruits if the freight ban continues.

Lorries turned away from Dover Port as France shuts the border

Chief executive of the Road Haulage Association (RHA), Richard Burnett, said the "fresh food supply where it's short shelf life and there will be product on its way now, that's where the challenge kind of comes from" after France announced the travel ban.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said reaching an agreement with France over the reopening of borders to allow freight to continue to move is an "urgent priority".

"There is not a moment to lose on this and while the UK Government has lead responsibility here, we will do all we can to support," she tweeted.

Read more: Sadiq Khan urges Boris Johnson to seek extension to Brexit transition period

"Our most immediate concern is for our exporting seafood sector. This is the peak time of year for business and the impact on them is significant.

"I raised the issue of compensation at the COBR meeting earlier and (the Scottish Government) will also liaise with sector about support we can offer."

Non-stop blaring lorry horns keeping Dover residents awake

Ms Sturgeon said there is "no immediate concern" over food supplies and urged shoppers not to stockpile, adding there are also no concerns over supplies of medicine and coronavirus vaccines.

"The UK Government MUST avoid this happening all over again at end of year as a result of Brexit," she added.

Read more: Northern Ireland reduces Christmas bubbling to one day

Transport Select Committee chairman Huw Merriman said the situation at the border with France is "very alarming".

The Conservative MP said there was no need for panic but that it was "important that we find a way through before transport and ports are completely blockaded".

More Latest News

See more More Latest News

HGVs awaiting post-Brexit food checks could become easy targets for organised crime groups, LBC has been told.

Lorries waiting for post-Brexit food inspections will be ‘honeypot’ for criminal gangs, as drivers left vulnerable

China Floods

Heavy rainstorms kill four people in southern China

A French police operation is under way

Five migrants die trying to cross the Channel hours after Lords backs Rwanda bill

Several hundred students and pro-Palestinian supporters rally at Yale University campus

Pro-Palestinian protests sweep US college campuses after arrests at Columbia

The Met Police has apologised to Stephen Lawrence's mother for breaking a promise to answer questions about her son's murder

Met's Stephen Lawrence murder investigation to be reviewed by independent police force

Rishi Sunak said nothing would stand in the government's way

Rishi Sunak vows 'nothing will stand in the way of Rwanda flights' as minister warns 'legal challenges are inevitable'

Malaysia Helicopter Crash

Two Malaysian military helicopters collide and crash, killing 10 people on board

Alfie Lewis

Teenage boy, 15, stabbed through the heart 'in full view' of primary school pupils and parents

Parts of the UK are to be hit with snow and rain

Exact date Brits to be hit with snow and drenched in rain in unseasonable wintry blast, as weather becomes 'write off'

North Korea

North Korean leader leads rocket drills that simulate nuclear counterattack

Richard Walker running with Iceland colleague Simon Felstead

Iceland boss Richard Walker says he 'owes paramedics his life' after collapsing while running London Marathon

The Rwanda Bill has finally passed through parliament.

Victory for Rishi Sunak as Rwanda Bill to become law ending months of parliamentary deadlock

Britain is to announce a fresh £500million funding package for Ukraine on Tuesday.

Britain gives £500m bumper aid package of drones, ammo and missiles to Ukraine ahead of ‘difficult summer’

Rebel Wilson claims a British royal invited her to a drug-fuelled orgy in her upcoming memoir.

Rebel Wilson claims member of the Royal family 'invited her to drug-fuelled orgy' in upcoming bombshell memoir

Donald Trump accused of orchestrating 'criminal scheme to corrupt 2016 election' on first day of hush money trial

Donald Trump accused of orchestrating 'criminal scheme to corrupt 2016 election' on first day of hush money trial

Tom Holland has given an update on Spider-Man 4

'We have a legacy to protect': Tom Holland breaks silence over Spider-Man 4 progress