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Europe

France to reopen borders with UK for HGV drivers

The government has been told to issue temporary EU driver visas to help avert a lorry driver crisis.

France has reopened its borders with the UK to truck drivers who test negative to Covid-19. Borders had been closed for 48 hours since Sunday to reduce the spread of a new coronavirus variant prevalent in the UK’s south east – a move that left thousands of HGVs stranded around the Port of Dover.

The Department of Transport made the announcement late on Tuesday after France announced the new rules. Truck drivers are now able to travel if they have had a recent negative test (less than 72 hours before their departure). The army has joined NHS Test and Trace staff to carry out rapid tests on drivers in Kent.

However, HGV drivers are urged not to make the journey to Dover until the testing programme is fully active.

The agreement was made for those travelling for urgent reasons, including hauliers.

According to reports, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps had argued that lorry drivers are “relatively low risk” because driving a truck is a “solitary occupation”.

However, clearing the backlog of queuing lorries is expected to take a few days.

Speaking to BBC Radio 4, Communities Secretary Robert Jennick said that 80% of the HGV drivers stranded at Manston Airport in Kent are from the EU. As a result, he explained: “It’s in both sides’ mutual interest to bring this to a speedy resolution.”

Elizabeth de Jong, policy director of Logistics UK welcomed the news about the borders reopening but highlighted the importance of rapid Covid-19 testing so that the queues of trucks could be cleared.

On Tuesday, around 4,000 HGVs, along with thousands more LGVs were waiting to cross the Channel. With the end of the Brexit transition looming, the fear is the same thing could happen again. If Brexit negotiations end without a deal, HGV drivers may be queuing once again.

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