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LORRY drivers have been slapped with parking fines for pulling into Kent laybys after France’s travel ban left them stranded overnight.
The M20 was closed with hundreds of lorries marooned in Kent as Emmanuel Macron’s travel ban sparked food shortage warnings.
Lorries were stuck in huge lines on the motorway after the UK ban ordered by Mr Macron over the mutant Covid strain.
Highways England said 900 lorries were parked on the M20 at 6pm on Monday, but an hour earlier the PM had insisted the number was around 170.
Mr Johnson pleaded with French President Mr Macron for an end to the chaos as Highways England closed the M20 due to heavy freight numbers heading towards Dover and the Eurotunnel in Folkestone.
Operation Brock was rolled out to deal with the congestion, with the M20 closed between junctions seven and nine until 8am this morning as a contraflow barrier was installed.
Traffic wardens handed parking fines to furious truckers on a slip road to the M20, with the penalties branded an “insult to injury”.
Defiant HGV drivers vowed not to pay, but Hythe and Folkestone Council insisted the fines were appropriate.
A council spokesman told the i: “There are official lorry parks which should be used by drivers rather than coming off the designated routes and parking illegally in areas that were never designed for such use.
“Whilst the current situation might seem unusual, local residents have endured unpleasant impacts whenever there is cross channel disruption.
“We’ve been informed that there is plenty of space in the official areas designated for lorries waiting to cross the channel and clear signage is in place to direct drivers to these.”
It comes as Mr Johnson vowed to test all lorry drivers transporting goods across the Channel to halt the disruption.
The government is believed to be ramping up plans to allow thousands of truckers to be tested for Covid-19, The Telegraph reports.
Around 6,000 of the PCR Covid tests wanted by France – which take up to 48 hours for results – a day would be needed to administered at the Manston site.
HGVs arriving in Kent tonight will be diverted to nearby Manston Airport to park, with a contraflow system reopening the M20 in both directions tomorrow.
At Monday’s Downing Street press conference, Mr Johnson said the number of lorries queuing on Kent’s M20 had been slashed from 500 to 170 after Operation Stack was implemented.
It came after the Prime Minister chaired an emergency meeting of the Cobra committee to address the crisis.
He added the government was working “with our friends across the Channel to unblock the flow of trade as fast as possible” and revealed he had a “excellent” conversation with French President Mr Macron.
Both leaders were working on a fix to allow freight to flow as fast as possible with hopes of a breakthrough “in the next few hours”, Mr Johnson said.
The PM assured Brits supermarket supply chains were “strong and robust”, with the risk of transmission from lorry divers “very low”.
And he said the French ban only affected 20 per cent of human-handled freight brought by lorry drivers.
Mr Johnson said of his call with Mr Macron: “It was an excellent conversation with the French President, he stressed he was keen, I would say, to sort it out in the next few hours if we can.
“Our teams will be working on it flat out – if we can get a result then, that would be great, but we will do it as fast as we can.”
He added: “It is vital to stress these delays, which are only occurring at Dover, only affect human handled freight.
“That is only 20 per cent of the total arriving or departing to the European continent.
“Which means the vast majority of food medicines and other supplies are coming and going as normal.”
The PM also confirmed more than half-a-million people in the UK have been received their first dose of the Pfizer-Biotech Covid vaccine.
Boris was joined by Transport Secretary Grant Shapps and Chief Scientific Adviser Sir Patrick Vallance at tonight’s briefing.
Mr Shapps said remaining lorries queuing in Kent were in a holding area, and pleaded with people not to travel to Kent.
The Transport Secretary said a contraflow system will be set up on the M20 motorway in Kent to alleviate pressure on the road.
Mr Shapps said: “We’ll use the moveable barrier which has been constructed on the motorway, on the M20, and that enables us to set up a contraflow…. in just a few hours overnight and that will enable traffic to flow in both directions on the motorway.
He added: “What’s happened today has been the equivalent of what might happen in very severe weather conditions, sometimes if there’s a strike over in Calais.”
Eric Johnson, 50, from Birmingham said: “Apparently all the laybys nearby are booked up and the truck stops are basically full too.
Irish trucker Damien Doherty, 42, said: “My wife is worried sick I won’t be home for Christmas.
“Thankfully I managed to get it shipped out in time as it’s a very expensive load of perishable fish.
“Now I’ve been stuck here ever since. My wife is worried sick I won’t be home for Christmas.”
Meanwhile, Sir Patrick warned more parts of England could be plunged into Tier 4 to control the mutant virus spreading further.
He said: “The evidence on this virus is that it spreads easily, it’s more transmissible, we absolutely need to make sure we have the right level of restrictions in place.
“I think it is likely that this will grow in numbers of the variant across the country and I think it’s likely, therefore, that measures will need to be increased in some places, in due course, not reduced.
The French said this morning “in the next few hours” protocol would be established “to ensure movement from the UK can resume”, with this expected to be touched on in a press conference this afternoon.
Officials in Dover confirmed inbound freight was due to come into the country, but the huge queues and disruption will continue to cause chaos for the rest of the day.
Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said earlier: “In the coming hours, at European level, we will be putting in place a solid health protocol so that flows from the United Kingdom can resume.
It was reported today Mr Macron said France “will most probably ask” for negative Covid tests to be shown before entering from the UK as part of the row-back.
Around 10,000 lorries travel into the country via Dover every day, bringing in 20 per cent of all goods bought and sold in the UK.
Supermarkets feared major shortages of food and Christmas goods after the border closure, as hundreds of trucks sat with fresh vegetables and fruit in their trailers.
Sainsbury’s warned some products could be missing from shelves due to restrictions at ports, but said food for a traditional Christmas lunch is available and already in the country.
A spokesperson said: “All products for the Great British Christmas lunch are already in the country and we have plenty of these.
“If nothing changes, we will start to see gaps over the coming days on lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit – all of which are imported from the Continent at this time of year.”
The news sparked panic buying this morning, with shoppers lining up outside supermarkets at 5am to stock up on Christmas supplies.
Despite the rain, queues were seen outside one Waitrose store in Henleaze, near Bristol, in the early hours of today.
And another Brit shared a snap of him waiting with other shoppers at 5.50am to get toilet paper.
Supermarkets have urged people not to panic buy and Tesco insisted its stocks would not be affected by the 48-hour blockade.
There was chaos at Britain’s busiest port in Dover overnight as people were left stranded in the cold after the sudden closure.
The port was closed, sparking fears for deliveries to and from Calais in the lead up to Christmas.
Prolonged restrictions on Dover trade could have “quite dramatic” ramifications for the UK, the port’s boss warned today.
Doug Bannister said: “This is trade that’s being denied from both British and European enterprise so a prolonged period will have quite a stark situation.
“Because of the importance of the Dover straits in handling critical goods such as food and other things like that I think it could become quite dramatic.”
A worker outside Dover was heard shouting: “No lorries. It’s shut,” this morning while emphatically crossing his arms at drivers who had no clue about what happened overnight.
Haulier Matt Richards, 50, from Wolverhampton was stuck in his vehicle from 8pm after he was trapped in by other vans.
He said: “I was driving towards the Port when my phone started pinging about the closure.
France banned British lorries from travelling to and from the country at 11pm last night, issuing a blockade for 48 hours.
Thousands of lorries due to cross the Channel today were told to stay away from Kent ports.
Those carrying fresh food and other items were faced with ‘borders closed’ signs and turned away.
Lorries could potentially be stranded in Britain, which sparked fears drivers would stay away and disrupt the supply chain.
But this morning the French Government said it was working on a solution, and Dover officials said incoming lorries were still arriving today.
“It’s absolutely ridiculous to make such a last minute snap decision. They should have given everyone a bit more time to prepare. I only want to get home to Wolverhampton now.”
Mr Richards, who delivered two £1million Covid-19 testing machines to Toulouse, France last week, was set to bring another to Italy by December 28 but now fears he won’t be able to make it.
But supplies of the Covid vaccine to the UK will not be affected, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said this morning.
An industry source said: “Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse — disaster on top of disaster. I fear for supermarket supply chains.
“It’s the panic buying we are most worried about. The chains have held up all year but only if people are sensible.”
Lorry drivers were arriving in Dover throughout the night and into the morning, only to be turned away by cops and port authorities, with huge queues of goods vehicles at the border this morning.
Queues stretched seven miles at ports in both Britain and France as the ban added to existing worries over Christmas stockpiling and Brexit uncertainty.
Patrols have been seen on the Scotland and Wales borders – to ensure people don’t travel.
It is feared the EU could ban all flights into the UK from tonight over the new strain which is causing havoc in the country.
The Welsh Government has requested “urgent” talks with the UK Government after ferry passengers in Wales were banned from entering the Republic of Ireland.
Ireland is allowing freight and essential travel from ports in North Wales and West Wales, but has said other visitors will not be granted entry.
The new mutant strain causing the sudden ban is feared to be 70 per cent more infectious.
However, Mr Shapps said the new strain is not unique to the UK, adding: “We detected that first but we know already that the cases have been found in continental Europe and other countries, including countries which have placed travel bans – the Netherlands, for example – actually have much higher case rates per 100,000 than the UK at the moment.
“So I think it stands to reason that, once people look at this, they’ll probably realise that it’s actually already in their domestic coronavirus case load.”
Fears the blockade could disrupt vital supplies of the Pfizer Biotech vaccine to the UK – which is made in Belgium – were eased this morning as Mr Shapps said supply would not be hit.
Mr Shapps told Sky News: “There’s no issue (with the vaccine) at all. Most of the vaccine does not come on a.. roll in, roll off… in other words it’s not accompanied by a driver it comes on containers.
“There are good supplies in the meantime so there won’t be an impact on the vaccination programme.
“But it’s obviously important we get this resolved with the French and that’s what we’ll be trying to do today.”
Military aircraft could airlift supplies of the vaccine from Belgium if the freight ban stays in place for longer than 48 hours, The Department of Health confirmed.
A government spokesman said last night: “As a result we are urging everybody – including all hauliers – to avoid travelling to Kent ports until further notice.
“We are working closely with Kent Resilience Forum, Kent Council and Highways England to ensure contingency measures are urgently put in place to manage disruption, and the Prime Minister will chair a COBR meeting tomorrow to discuss the situation.”
Shortly afterwards, Operation Stack, the emergency measure to avoid gridlock in Kent, kicked in along the coastbound M20, with the road between junctions 8 and 11 closed to traffic.
Ministers have been preparing for months for border chaos from a possible No Deal Brexit and will bring forward contingency plans.
EU states will discuss their response to the new virus strain in a call this morning. It has now reportedly been found in Italy.
Germany, Holland, Belgium, Austria and Bulgaria were also halting flights. Trains to Belgium were suspended and Ireland introduced a 48-hour ban on travellers from midnight.
Ian Wright, of the Food and Drink Federation, said the suspension of freight traffic could cause “serious disruption”.
“The Government must very urgently persuade the French government to exempt accompanied freight from its ban.”
One trucker wrote: “I’ve got two trucks in Dover, one was put on the boat to Calais, the other has been told to go home. Some excellent consistency there.”
The moves came as Brits raced into a Christmas exodus to try to save their festivities.
Amid scenes later slammed by Health Secretary Matt Hancock, commuter Harriet Clugston, who filmed the crowds, compared the scenes to the fall of Saigon in the Vietnam War.
She tweeted: “Last train out of Saigon. Queue at St Pancras as we wait to board the Leeds-bound train. As expected, train is crammed.”
Eurostar rail tickets sold out in less than an hour amid rumours of the French ban.
A 21-year-old engineering student trying to travel home to Brussels said the British government had “just created chaos”.
The shock Tier 4 rules imposed on London and parts of the South East mean people are only supposed to leave their areas for limited reasons — such as for work, education or caring responsibilities.
Within an hour of Mr Johnson’s bombshell announcement on Saturday evening, Londoners jumped into cars, taxis and even rental vehicles to escape the city.
The National Police Chiefs’ Council told The Sun “blatant” rule-breakers would receive fixed-penalty notices. Leader Martin Hewitt said: “These restrictions will be upsetting for many after a very challenging year.
“But most people will want to do what they can to protect public health and the health of their loved ones. We urge everyone to follow the rules in their area.
“We are confident that the majority of people will continue to do their best to adapt and do the right thing.
Just when you thought it couldn’t get any worse — disaster on top of disaster. I fear for supermarket supply chains
“Clear guidance will be developed for officers who are policing these regulations, and they will continue to play their part in helping the public navigate and understand changes in their area.”
British Transport Police revealed they were boosting officer numbers across the southern transport network to ensure people were making only essential journeys.
Assistant Chief Constable Sean O’Callaghan said his force’s policing method “remained the same” — with officers engaging with passengers and dishing out fines if “absolutely necessary”.
The Met Police warned the “most dangerous and flagrant breaches” of Tier 4 regulations would be hit with penalties, tweeting: “Don’t risk a fine in the lead up to Christmas.”
In Scotland, cops said they would double their presence along the border after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced a clampdown.
Police Scotland Chief Constable Iain Livingstone said “highly visible patrols” on roads would be used to “deter anyone who might be considering breaching the coronavirus travel restrictions”.
An initial ban would last until Britain leaves the EU on January 1, but the source added Berlin is already “working on measures” to extend the flight ban beyond that date.
It comes after a German government official earlier told the DPA news agency restrictions on flights were a “serious option”.
Ireland has also announced similar measures banning flights from the UK for the first time in history.
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News – Drivers hit with PARKING FINES after France ban leaves them stranded overnight