STRANDED truckers were ready to roll again last night after shamed French leader Emmanuel Macron was forced to reopen his country’s border with the UK.
He caved in after pressure from Britain and the EU to end a 48-hour blockade imposed amid fears over the new Covid strain.
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Staff wearing fluorescent jackets bearing the NHS Test and Trace logo arrived in Dover this evening ahead of a huge testing operationCredit: ITV News
Truckers trapped at Dover have vented their fury at MacronCredit: �2020 Stephen Lock / i-Images
French leader Emmanuel Macron has caved in after pressure from Britain and the EU to end a 48-hour blockadeCredit: AFP – Getty
Drivers destined for France can now show any recognised Covid test to gain entry.
Yesterday truckers trapped at Dover vented fury at Macron.
Geordie Peter Graham, 51, said “This is all about Brexit — I don’t think it’s anything to do with the virus.
“France are trying to blackmail us into doing a deal or saying, ‘this is what it will be like for you’ if not.
“Both sides need to come to an agreement – but Boris needs to stand his ground and not give in to them.”
Fellow trucker, dad-of-three Keith Murray, 34, fumed: “I think Macron is a wally.
“I honestly don’t believe for one minute this is coronavirus-related.”
PM Boris Johnson deployed the military to UK ports to carry out tests on up to 6,000 lorry drivers a day.
Troops started roadside testing in the early hours of today.
Once a driver is tested, they receive a text message about 20 minutes later revealing whether they are negative or positive.
If given the all clear they can drive to the port and straight on to ferries.
The Government also sent six food vans to feed hungry hauliers stuck in the makeshift overflow car park at Manston airfield, Kent.
The agreement to reopen the border — struck last night — will be reviewed at the end of the month.
This is all about Brexit — I don’t think it’s anything to do with the virus
Britain will pay for the tests but a government source insisted it was in the UK’s interests to get freight moving.
Downing Street warned it could take days to clear the backlog of more than 3,000 trucks in and around Dover.
The source warned that the testing regime “won’t be perfect” straightaway as it is the first such testing in the UK.
Hauliers were urged not to rush to Kent until the backlog has been cleared.
President Macron had wanted every lorry driver to have a PCR test, which takes at least 24 hours to deliver a result.
Mr Johnson resisted the demand over fears it would cause a lengthy backlog of trucks waiting at the border.
There were huge tailbacks as stranded lorries queued on the M20 in KentCredit: JOHN McLELLAN
The Government sent food vans to feed hungry hauliers stuck in the makeshift overflow car park at Manston airfield, KentCredit: JOHN McLELLAN
A frustrated driver had breakfast at a truck stop in KentCredit: AFP or licensors
Staff wearing fluorescent jackets bearing the NHS Test and Trace logo arrived in the port town ahead of the huge testing regime
The source blasted Mr Macron for causing the chaos, and said: “He will be the most relieved of everyone.
“He boxed himself in and then realised many of the people he’s left trapped in Kent are French.”
France shut its UK border on Sunday at 11pm — concerned by a mutant strain of Covid hitting London and South East England.
The move cut off goods supplies and sparked panic buying ahead of Christmas.
The PM and Mr Macron had been trying to find a resolution.
Yesterday lunchtime the French leader was embarrassed when the EU Commission issued a stinging rebuke saying his reaction to the new Covid strain had been over the top.
A recommendation requested by all 27 European capitals said rapid testing units proposed by the UK Government should be accepted and deployed at ports and airports across the EU to screen British arrivals.
It added: “Any prohibition of transport services, such as flight or train bans, should be discontinued.”
The breakthrough came after the PM spoke to EU chief Ursula von der Leyen twice on Monday night.
The diktats from the EU Commission are not legally binding on member states but are designed to replace the patchwork of restrictions capitals slapped on Britain in a panicked response to the mutant strain.
Poland was said to be furious with the French as its blockade had left many Polish truckers stranded at Dover.
Boris Johnson deployed the military to UK ports to carry out tests on up to 6,000 lorry drivers a dayCredit: Getty – Pool
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps was hailed as the key figure in brokering an agreementCredit: Getty – Pool
The Transport Secretary was hailed as the key figure in brokering an agreement.
Announcing the breakthrough, his French counterpart Jean-Baptiste Djebbari tweeted: “Thank you Grant Shapps for the amazing work we have done in the last 48 hours.”
Yesterday the boss of the Food and Drink Federation Ian Wright told MPs supermarket shelves would be left empty within 24 hours unless the border was reopened.
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