Published: 18:51, 20 December 2020
| Updated: 23:00, 20 December 2020
Boris Johnson will chair an emergency Cobra meeting tomorrow amid fears Kent's road network will be gridlocked after passenger and freight traffic was barred from entering France for the next 48 hours.
The Prime Minister and his top advisors will discuss how to deal with problems which could see thousands of vehicles at a standstill.
Pictures taken at the Port of Dover tonight show there are already tailbacks of three miles on the approach.
Tonight Eurostar's final service to the continent was at around 9.30pm with the Port of Dover suspending its cross-Channel links.
France's decision came a little more than 24 hours after the Prime Minister plunged Kent and much of south east England into even stricter lockdown measures, with international travel prohibited for people in the Tier 4 areas.
This evening, authorities in Paris announced the temporary pause on travel across the Channel - which it will put a halt to lorries as well as people.
Prime Minister Jean Castex tweeted: "Given the new health risk, and pending its assessment, all flows of people from the United Kingdom to France are suspended from midnight tonight, for 48 hours, and for all means of transport."
France has also said it will require all its citizens attempting to re-enter from the UK to have a Covid test first.
The Port of Dover says all services for accompanied traffic had been closed until further notice.
Meanwhile, Eurostar said the border would close at 11pm with the 9.34pm service being the last train from the UK into France.
In a statement, the company said: "Due to the French and Belgium government’s announcements that borders with the UK will close at midnight, we are unable to run any trains from London to Paris, Brussels or Amsterdam on Monday. In addition there will be no trains running from London to Paris on Tuesday.
"We can confirm that our trains will continue to operate from Paris to London. However, the UK government has restricted international travel for those living in Tier 4 areas and you should check the government advice about your eligibility to travel. Passengers living outside Tier 4 may still transit through St Pancras International.
"We await further details from the relevant governments on how travel restrictions will be enforced and will continue to update our website as further information becomes available.
"As our trains and stations are very busy, we'd advise against coming to the station unless you have a ticket. Please note we cannot sell you a ticket at the station."
DFDS Ferries told customers: "Passengers will not be allowed to sail into France from midnight this evening (December 20) and for at least 48 hours.
"The last departure for passengers this evening from Dover to Calais is at 2135 from Dover to Dunkirk is at 2245, and from Newhaven to Dieppe is at 2300.
Services will continue inbound to the UK over the next 48 hours to enable freight and UK nationals / residents to get home.
"If you have a booking from Dover or Newhaven within this 48hr period, it will be cancelled and a travel credit issued. Please do not come to the ports of Dover or Newhaven during this time as you will not be allowed to travel."
Meanwhile Rod McKenzie, of the Road Haulage Association, has told us the decision to prevent freight crossing the short-sea route puts the nation's supply chains at risk.
"This is an incredibly serious development at a critical time for the logistics industry," he said.
"We saw massive queues in Kent last week, and ongoing, because of stockpiling for Brexit, and shutting borders on top of that makes this much worse. This threatens our supply chains and we hope it is lifted as soon as possible."
A body representing the French haulage industry and drivers also raised the alarm for hauliers potentially stranded as a result of a border closure. In a statement on its website, it said: "The FNTR is very concerned about the situation of French drivers who would be stranded across the Channel.
"Without additional information from the public authorities for the moment, for all companies that may have affected drivers, we invite you to contact the Consulate of France in the United Kingdom now.
"We remain on alert and will get back to you for any new information we have from the French authorities."
"This is an incredibly serious development at a critical time for the logistics industry" – Rod McKenzie
Revealing plans for the Cobra meeting, a Number 10 spokesman said: "The Prime Minister will chair it tomorrow to discuss the situation regarding international travel, in particular the steady flow of freight into and out of the UK."
France joins a growing list of European countries to impose fresh travel restrictions after a spike in cases of a more contagious coronavirus strain, which is believed to have emerged in Kent.
Ireland has put restrictions on flights and ferries which will last for an initial 48 hours before being reviewed on Tuesday.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said tonight: "My department is urgently working with Highways England and Kent County Council on contingency measures to minimise traffic disruption in the area. We will share more details on these shortly.
"Following the French Government's announcement it will not accept any passengers arriving from the UK for the next 48hrs, we're asking the public & particularly hauliers not to travel to Kent ports or other routes to France."
We expect significant disruption in the area. 1/2