Boris Johnson reveals Macron 'understands' UK position
The comments come as Natalie Elphicke, Conservative MP for Dover, attacked the French Government for its decision to suddenly close its border with the UK amid concern over the new strain. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the coronavirus mutation appears to be more infectious than the previous strain.
Ms Elphicke hit out at France’s border closure, calling it “unnecessary, unhelpful, and irresponsible”.
She warned the closure has caused “serious traffic congestion” and added: “The longer that this goes on, the longer it will take to unwind, meaning that there could be queues past Christmas unless the French reopen the border soon,” according to The Telegraph.
Rod McKenzie of the Road Haulage Association called the channel closure a “hammer blow” and said it threatened “serious disruption” of supply chains.
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It comes as Thierry Breton, France’s EU commissioner, used the border shutdown to describe Brexit as a “tragedy”.
He told business news outlet BFM Business: “It’s a tragedy what’s happening in Britain, and this Brexit is a tragedy – we see it more and more every day.”
He also claimed the country could have provided assistance to the UK if it had “chosen to remain in the European Union”.
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Social media users hit out at the comments, with one writing: “If they wanted to help they would, if there is a Brexit or not”.
Officials on both sides of the channel say they are working to resolve the shutdown, which has affected freight between Europe and the UK, causing tailbacks.
There are also fears the trade disruption could cause shortages of fresh food in the UK with Christmas just days away.
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France’s president Emmanuel Macron has claimed the nation is looking into “systematic testing” of lorry drivers arriving into the country.
Boris Johnson chaired an emergency Cobra meeting on Monday following the channel shutdown.
In a press briefing afterwards, the Prime Minister said the delays were only affecting human-handled freight, which he claimed accounted for “only 20 percent of the total arriving from or departing to the European continent”.
He said Britain had decided to activate “long-prepared plans” to cope with traffic tailbacks at Dover as part of Brexit contingency measures.
Mr Johnson added: “I have just spoken to President Macron – we had a very good call – we both understand each other’s positions and want to resolve these problems as fast as possible.”
France said its channel closure would initially last for 48 hours.
According to a statement from the French Government, this period of time would allow the nation to talk with other EU member states to co-ordinate a response on how to monitor travel from the UK.
It also said the nation would “prepare operationally for the safe resumption of movement from the UK from 22 December onwards, which will be based on the compulsory provision of tests on departure”.
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