// French and UK government come to agreement over border closures
// Traffic to be allowed back through from Wednesday morning, although drivers and passengers will need to test negative for coronavirus within past 72 hours
// Agreement will be reviewed again on December 31
Freight drivers and some passengers will be allowed to return to France this morning after reaching an agreement with the UK on Tuesday.
Under the agreement detailed on the UK government’s website, people will be able to cross back over to the European mainland if they have tested negative for coronavirus within the past 72 hours.
Hauliers, French citizens and British citizens with French residency will be able to cross over, but they will need to have an urgent reason for travelling.
NHS Test and Trace staff alongside the military have been deployed for testing using rapid lateral flow tests, which can detect the new strain and give a result in about 30 minutes.
The drivers will receive the result by text message, and this message would give them the right to cross the Channel.
A “protocol is still being finalised” to work out what to do with those drivers who test positive, a government source told BBC News.
With heavy congestion now building up at ports, secretary of state for transport Grant Shapps said it could take days to clear the backlog of transport.
Shapps warned hauliers against travelling to Kent until further notice in order to help reduce congestion.
“I am pleased that we have made this important progress with our French counterparts this evening. This protocol will see the French border reopen to those travelling for urgent reasons, provided they have a certified negative Covid test,” Shapps said.
“We continue to urge hauliers not to travel to Kent until further notice as we work to alleviate congestion at ports.”
The arrangement with the French government will be reviewed on December 31, but could run until January 6.
The French government will also carry out sample testing on incoming freight to the UK.
More than 50 countries have banned UK arrivals following widespread concern about the spread of the new variant.
It’s thought more than 4000 food and drink lorries were being held up by the French travel ban.
“UK shoppers need have no concerns about food supplies over Christmas, but impacts on local on-shelf availability of certain fresh foods look likely from next week unless we can swiftly restore this link,” Food and Drink Federation chief executive Ian Wright said on Tuesday.
“The Government is right that 80 per cent of trade is unaccompanied, but roll-on, roll-off, accompanied trucks is by far the preferred mode of transport for fresh food. Around half of all our food is imported at this time of year,” Wright added.
Both Wright and British Retail Consortium director of food and sustainability Andrew Opie appeared in front of the BEIS Select Committee yesterday afternoon to discuss the urgent matter.
“If we do not see the empty trucks, which have already delivered to warehouses and stores, getting back over the channel, they will not be able to pick up the next consignment of fresh fruit, vegetables, salad vegetables,” Opie said.
“What we’ve been told by members is that unless those trucks can start travelling again and go back to Spain and Portugal and other parts of Europe, we will problems with fresh produce from December 27.
“What we need is for those trucks to move in the next 24 hours if we are to avoid seeing problems on our shelves,” Opie added.