Europe

Lorry drivers 'set for Christmas stuck in Kent offered one cereal bar each'

Lorry drivers waiting to cross the Channel have been offered just a single cereal bar each, according to a trade association.

More than 1,500 lorries are now backed up in Kent, unable to make the crossing after France shut the border to stop the spread of mutant Covid, with drivers spending a second night sleeping in their cabs.

Rod McKenzie, managing director of the Road Haulage Association, said many of them are European drivers trying to get home for Christmas, and their morale is very poor.

He told BBC Breakfast: ‘Yesterday Kent County Council offered each of them one cereal bar, which is a pretty poor effort, I think in terms of maintaining their morale, and their spirits.’

Mr McKenzie said toilet facilities were also a ‘big issue’ with concerns over health and cleanliness.

He added: ‘We are not treating lorry drivers well in these very difficult conditions that they are in at the moment.’

Crisis talks with France will continue in an effort to resume trade flows amid warnings the border must be running again by Wednesday to avoid disruption to food supplies.

Home Secretary Priti Patel said the Government is ‘speaking constantly’ with France to achieve a resolution ‘in both our interests’ to get freight moving again.

But she defended the Government’s handling of the pandemic, insisting ministers had been ‘ahead of the curve’ in tackling coronavirus.

More than 40 countries have banned flights from the UK due to a mutant variant of coronavirus spreading through the country, but it is the French decision to also ban hauliers which has caused the greatest concern.

A possible solution could be mass testing of HGV drivers, while the BBC reported that plans to reopen the border will come into effect from Wednesday, citing French Europe Minister Clement Beaune.

Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said the ‘borders really need to be running pretty much freely from tomorrow to assure us that there won’t be any disruption’.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘There is a problem potentially directly after Christmas and that is really in fresh produce, so we’re talking here about things like salad, vegetables, fresh fruit, of which the vast majority come from Europe at this time.’

The main problem was empty lorries stuck in Kent unable to head over to the continent to reload with fresh supplies, he said.

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