Chaos at Britain's borders after France shut down the Eurotunnel and banned UK lorries

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  • Thousands of lorries are expected to be parked up on England's motorway on Monday after France took the emergency step of banning UK travellers for at least 48 hours.
  • Emmanuel Macron has shut down large parts of the English Channel crossing in an attempt to contain the spread of the highly-infectious new strain of the coronavirus.
  • Lorry drivers carrying millions of pounds worth of exports are not allowed to enter the EU.
  • The ban is also set to deter lorry drivers from the EU bringing goods into the UK, industry groups have warned, creating alarm over potential food shortages in Britain in the run-up to Christmas.
  • The chaos comes just 10 days before the end of the Brexit transition period when new checks on trade with the EU are set to cause significant disruption at Britain's ports.
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There is chaos at Britain's most vital trading route after France took the emergency step of banning travellers and hauliers from the UK for at least 48 hours in response to the outbreak of the new variant of the coronavirus.

Over a dozen European Union member states plus countries including Canada and Turkey have imposed restrictions on British travellers in a frantic attempt to contain the global spread of the new strain of the virus, which Boris Johnson's UK government estimates to be around 70% more transmissible than the first strain.

Emmanuel Macron's French government went further on Sunday, banning UK travellers and shutting down the Eurotunnel crossing for at least 48 hours, meaning thousands of lorries carrying goods to the continent will not be able to cross the English Channel.

While the French ban applies to accompanied inbound freight, the logistics industry has warned that many European truckers carrying everyday items like food and drink will not make the journey to Britain if they cannot return quickly.

Ian Wright, CEO of the UK Food & Drink Federation, warned on Sunday evening that the ban had "the potential to cause serious disruption to UK Christmas fresh food supplies" as "truckers will not want to travel here if they have a real fear of getting marooned."

Despite the potential risk to UK food supplies, Logistics UK's Alex Veitch urged Brits not to panic-buy goods, saying in a statement: "Shoppers should not panic buy - retailers will be making every effort to ensure there is stock within the system, including fresh produce." The British Retail Consortium's Andrew Opie said retail industry stockpiling in preparation for the Brexit "should prevent immediate problems."

However, the UK Transport Secretary Grant Shapps acknowledged on Monday morning that the threat of food supplies would grow if the French ban on UK arrivals exceeded 48 hours, telling BBC Radio 4's Today programme that it "depends on how long things go on."

Chaos at Britain's borders comes just ten days before the end of the Brexit transition period when new checks on goods coming to and from the EU are expected to create delays at Britain's ports and potential shortages.

A UK government spokesperson on Sunday night said "we are expecting significant disruption in Kent," where the major ports of Dover and Felixstowe are located. "As a result, we are urging everybody - including all hauliers - to avoid travelling to Kent ports until further notice," they said.

Lorry drivers are being urged to avoid all roll-on, roll-off routes to France and either delay or reroute exports to the continent. James Withers of Scotland Food and Drink tweeted that "millions of pounds worth" of exports risked being destroyed if they didn't reach customers in Europe on time.

The ban on hauliers entering France from the UK is set to affect around 6,000 lorries on Monday, which is around 20% the total number expected to make the journey, Transport Secretary Shapps told BBC Radio 4 this morning. 

Toby Melville - WPA Pool / Getty Images

Affected lorries are set to form long queues on England's motorway this morning, prompting authorities in Kent to activate the "Operation Stack" traffic-management system. There were concerns on Sunday night over where the thousands of affected lorry drivers would spend the night, as the Ashford lorry park being developed for Brexit is not yet ready for use.

Roger Gough, leader of Kent County Council, on Monday morning told Times Radio: "Everything that government can do to reinforce that message and to ensure that we don't get more vehicles coming into Kent the better."

Rachel Reeves, the Labour Party's Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, urged Prime Minister Johnson to "urgently explain what he is doing to get a grip on the situation."

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