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Boris Johnson considers French travel ban to stop variants making it to UK

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The Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said there could be tighter restrictions on travel from France to prevent the spread of coronavirus variants - potentially leading to disruption to cross-Channel trade.

Mr Johnson made his comments during a meeting of a committee of backbench MPs who pressed him to say why there were no checks on HGVs coming into the UK from France.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering putting France on the 'red list'
Prime Minister Boris Johnson is considering putting France on the 'red list'

Labour chairman of the Home Affairs select committee Yvette Cooper took the Prime Minister to task over the issue, asking him to explain why HGV traffic to the UK was not subject to the same checks carried out when they left.

She asked why France, which had 2-3,000 cases of the variants, was not on the 'red list' of countries from which travel is effectively banned.

The PM responded by confirming he was considering imposing tougher restrictions on travel from France to prevent the importation of coronavirus variants.

He said a balance had to be struck between the need to protect public health and the possible disruption that would be caused to the flow of goods including food and medicine.

Mr Johnson said the government will 'take a decision, no matter how tough' and that measures may be needed 'very soon'.

Lorries queue up to leave the Port of Dover in December. Photo: UKNIP
Lorries queue up to leave the Port of Dover in December. Photo: UKNIP

“There is a balance to be struck and what we don't know is the exact state of the efficacy of the vaccines against the new variants and we have to balance that against the very serious disruption that is entailed by curtailing cross-channel trade.”

Responding to his remarks, Sarah Laouadi, European Policy Manager at Logistics UK - formerly the Freight Transport Association - said in a statement:“It is vitally important to protect the UK’s highly interconnected supply chain from the threat of new Covid-19 variants, and rapid testing of drivers on arrival in the UK will provide additional confidence for those whose businesses they supply.

"However, it is worth remembering that drivers are, by the nature of their jobs and thanks to contactless delivery procedures, a very low risk category – as has been borne out by the testing carried out on drivers since the start of the pandemic – and any testing regime must be proportionate.”

The possible threat of restrictions comes after the widespread concerns about the impact of Brexit on the county’s main routes to the Channel ports proved unfounded.

At the same time, the Port of Dover said the number of hauliers travelling to Europe via Dover was back up to over 90% of the equivalent levels in 2020.

However, heavy traffic heading to the Dover port yesterday saw the implementation of Dover TAP yesterday. This involves slowing down traffic on the A20 to avoid bottlenecks.

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