The M20 in Kent is currently hosting 1,500 plus parked lorries unable to move, with thousands more temporarily sat going nowhere in local airports and unfinished Brexit lorry parks. Transport secretary Grant Shapps’ assurance that the Covid related EU travel ban will not have a major impact on food imports is now clearly staring at stark evidence to the contrary.
This is all taking place as a consequence of Covid-19, in part of England that has, apparently, been preparing for years for Brexit.
With Brexit, deal or no deal, only days away, it is all too evident that Government is no more ready for it, than it is able to deal with the debacle unfolding before our very eyes right now in Kent.
France, through state media, is currently indicating that it will reopen its border with the UK but only to its own nationals, and only those that have tested negative for Covid-19. French borders will remain closed to all non-French citizens in the UK with no time frame for a return to an open border policy with the UK.
The logistics exercise now required to process French nationals currently parked somewhere in Kent, test them for Covid-19, and allow those that test negative to cross the channel looks daunting. All the while that is going on, what do French nationals that test positive do, and what does every non-French national do.
The UK home secretary Priti Patel was asked on BBC Breakfast this morning about the situation in Kent and statements by her colleague transport secretary, Grant Shapps, made in the Downing Street press conference last night. Shapps stated at the time of the broadcast there were only circa 170 lorries waiting to cross the Channel, to then shortly after being contradicted by Highways England, quoting the number was closer to 900.
Patel said numbers would “fluctuate” and that this morning there were 650 on the M20 and a further 873 at Manston airfield, once again a gross underestimate.
For hospitality businesses in the UK dependent upon food and drink imports this Brexit preview from Covid-19 looks ominous.
Restaurants are closed and for the time being unaffected as there is no requirement for fresh produce, but many foodservice businesses will be affected in hospitals, care homes, military, prisons and workplaces.
Food and drink supplies across the UK can expect to face even more disruption after the end of the Brexit transition period. With no knowledge of what the Brexit outcome will be businesses are still unable to prepare for it.
The Food and Drink Federation’s chief executive, Ian Wright, told MPs when recently giving evidence to the Commons business committee on Brexit preparedness that his members were in the dark. During committee hearings he said: “We can’t be absolutely certain about the movement of food from the EU to the UK from 1 January for two reasons. One is checks at the border. The other is tariffs, and the problem with tariffs is, we don’t know what they will be. How on earth can traders prepare in this environment?” Those comments were prior to the current situation unfolding, and now escalating.
Despite all assurances from Government of their ability to manage Covid-19 and Brexit, the realities playing out before us tell a very different story.
Hospitality & Catering News: Government Covid and Brexit assurances stare at stark evidence to the contrary. – 22 December 2020 – Government Covid and Brexit assurances stare at stark evidence to the contrary.
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