Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Thursday, January 21st, 2021

Isolation of UK eases but backlog could take days to clear

Isolation of UK eases but backlog could take days to clear

CALAIS- Goods and passengers from Britain began arriving on French shores Wednesday following a two-day blockade imposed because of a new variant of the coronavirus that had isolated the U.K. and raised fears of food shortages. But officials warned the backlog would take days to work through.
A deal struck the day before that allows truckers and travelers with a negative virus test to cross the Channel into France brought some relief, but many warned the chaos was a precursor to what Britain may face if it doesn’t come to a trade agreement with the European Union before it leaves the bloc’s economic embrace on Dec. 31.
Associated Press reporters saw a ferry from Britain pulling into the French port of Calais before dawn Wednesday, and rail operator Eurotunnel said trains carrying freight and car passengers were allowed to cross to the continent beneath the English Channel again. But gridlock persisted and tempers flared at England’s port of Dover, where stranded truckers and travelers were desperate to get home for Christmas. Some truck drivers could be seen scuffling with police.
Nations around the world began barring people from Britain over the weekend after Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that scientists said a new version of the virus whipping around London and England’s southeast may be more contagious. The announcement added to anxieties at a time when Europe has been walloped by soaring new virus infections and deaths.
Some European countries relaxed restrictions on Britain on Wednesday, though many remain in place. Still, it was France’s ban on freight that caused the most alarm, since the U.K. relies heavily on its cross-Channel commercial links to the continent for food at this time of year, especially fresh fruit and vegetables.
Fears of food shortages added to an already glum runup to Christmas in Britain, where authorities have scaled back or canceled plans to relax restrictions for the holiday as daily virus infections soar and many hospitals are nearing capacity. Many Britons were already bracing for disruption, if the U.K. and the EU can’t agree on a new trade deal by the time the country leaves the bloc’s tariff-free single market and customs union in just over a week.
French authorities have insisted that the blockade was based on scientific concerns and not politics, but some couldn’t help but note that it may have offered a glimpse of what Britain can expect next year. (AP)