Lorry drivers clash with police in Dover as French border reopens

23 December 2020, 08:39 | Updated: 23 December 2020, 10:56

Lorry drivers have been involved in scuffles with police
Lorry drivers have been involved in scuffles with police. Picture: PA

By Maddie Goodfellow

Stranded lorry drivers have clashed with police officers at Dover after the border with France was reopened this morning.

Police and lorry drivers were said to be in a "stand-off" on Wednesday morning 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 border 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.

The Calais-Dover crossing was shut down on Sunday evening over fears of a new highly-infectious Covid strain, leaving thousands of lorry drivers stranded before Christmas.

More than 2,800 lorries have been stuck at the port after France stopped them crossing the Channel.

The British Retail Consortium (BRC) warned there may be shortages of some fresh goods until the backlog of lorries is cleared.

Andrew Opie, the BRC's director of food and sustainability, said: "Until the backlog is cleared and supply chains return to normal, we anticipate issues with the availability of some fresh goods."

All truck drivers, regardless of nationality, will be required to take a lateral flow test which can detect the new strain of Covid-19 and return results in about 30 minutes, Road Haulage Association (RHA) said.

France imposed the travel ban in response to fears about the spread of the more infectious coronavirus strain, which is spreading in the UK.

Hauliers must 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.

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

The French Government will also carry out sample testing on incoming freight to the UK, the RHA said.

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: "The massive backlog of vehicles will take time to clear and hundreds of drivers run the risk or not getting home in time for Christmas."

On Wednesday, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick told LBC that the army will be deployed to assist with the logistics of testing lorry drivers stuck in Kent but the backlog will take "a couple of days" to clear.

Speaking to Nick Ferrari on LBC at breakfast, Mr Jenrick said: "Traffic will start to flow this morning, it will take a couple of days to work this through because there is a significant backlog now.

“The armed forces will be helping us to put in place procedures over the course of the day so there will be a testing regime at Manston airport and other locations within Kent.

“The planning that has been done over three years now ahead of the end of the transition period has been helpful.

“We’ve actually been relatively well prepared but I hope this situation. will be resolved within the next couple of days.”

Police and lorry drivers are in a stand off
Police and lorry drivers are in a stand off. Picture: PA
Lorry drivers have been stranded at the port for several days
Lorry drivers have been stranded at the port for several days. Picture: PA
Police were forced to hold back lorry drivers
Police were forced to hold back lorry drivers. Picture: PA

On Tuesday, it was announced that lorries will be able to move across the UK-France border from Wednesday morning as a mass testing programme for HGV drivers gets underway.

All lorry drivers, irrespective of nationality, will require a lateral flow test to enter France.

This can detect the new strain of Covid-19 and provide results in around 30 minutes, rather than the 24 hours required after a PCR test.

In a statement, the Department for Transport said they "continue to strongly urge hauliers not to travel to Kent until further notice, while a mass testing programme for HGV drivers gets underway to alleviate congestion at ports."

Planes, boats and Eurostar services to France will also resume service tomorrow morning for French nationals, residents and those who are travelling for essential reasons, and travellers will need a negative PCR test.

The protocol agreed with the French government will be reviewed on December 31, but could run until January 6.

LBC has approached Kent police for further details.