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Drivers clash with police in Dover as lorries are further delayed by travel ban

Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick warned it may take a ‘few days’ to clear the backlog of lorries despite the travel ban being eased.

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Police restrain drivers trying to enter the Port of Dover (Steve Parsons/PA)

Police restrain drivers trying to enter the Port of Dover (Steve Parsons/PA)

Police restrain drivers trying to enter the Port of Dover (Steve Parsons/PA)

Lorry drivers have clashed with police in Kent as they continue to be held up by the French travel ban.

Footage shows a handful of police officers attempting to push back a small crowd of mostly men in Dover on Wednesday morning.

It comes as Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick warned it may take a “few days” to clear the backlog of around 4,000 lorries waiting to cross the Channel.

France has lifted the travel ban, but said those seeking to cross into the country from the UK must have a negative coronavirus result.

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: “It is good news for consumers as the French borders have now reopened; however, it is essential that lorries get moving across the border as quickly as possible.

“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, the 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.

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Police hold back drivers trying to enter the Port of Dover in Kent (Steve Parsons/PA)

Police hold back drivers trying to enter the Port of Dover in Kent (Steve Parsons/PA)

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Police hold back drivers trying to enter the Port of Dover in Kent (Steve Parsons/PA)

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.”

Hauliers who return a positive coronavirus result will be offered a PCR test for a more “refined” result, Mr Jenrick told Sky News.

Drivers will then be moved into Covid-secure hotel accommodation to self-isolate for 10 days if the second test comes back positive.

Mr Jenrick said he hoped HGVs would begin crossing the Channel on Wednesday morning as drivers undergo Covid-19 testing.

The Associated Press reported seeing a ferry pull into the French port of Calais before dawn, while trains carrying freight and car passengers were allowed to cross under the English Channel.

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A haulier speaks to police officers blocking the entrance to the Port of Dover (Andrew Matthews/PA)

A haulier speaks to police officers blocking the entrance to the Port of Dover (Andrew Matthews/PA)

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A haulier speaks to police officers blocking the entrance to the Port of Dover (Andrew Matthews/PA)

As of 7pm on Tuesday night, there were just under 3,000 lorries queued at the disused airfield site at Manston, Kent, Mr Jenrick said.

Between 700 to 800 were part of Operation Stack on the M20, he said, but “other HGVs and smaller vehicles are parked elsewhere in Kent”.

“Whatever the number is, whether it is 4,000 or more, it is a significant number to work through,” Mr Jenrick acknowledged as he advised hauliers not to travel to Kent.

Roads into the Port of Dover remained gridlocked with vans and lorries on Wednesday morning, with groups of people walking amongst the vehicles.

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Traffic blocks the roads around the Port of Dover (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Traffic blocks the roads around the Port of Dover (Andrew Matthews/PA)

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Traffic blocks the roads around the Port of Dover (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Meanwhile, the chief executive of the Food and Drink Federation Scotland said companies face a “black Christmas” due to delays at the French border.

David Thomson told the BBC: “For those people who export fresh and perishable goods, particularly seafood and salmon in Scotland, it’s been an absolutely disastrous few days and it will lead to a black Christmas for those businesses.

“The deal will be far too late for many people who are delivering perishable goods to the continent.

“It’s too late now to get to customers before Christmas.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has announced a temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours for hauliers, increasing the driving limit of nine hours to 11, to help them get through UK borders safely over the coming weeks.

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