French ban on UK freight hauliers 'slightly surprising', says Grant Shapps

Grant Shapps speaks to Sky News

Grant Shapps speaks to Sky News - Credit: Sky

France’s ban on freight hauliers from the UK was “slightly surprising”, the transport secretary has said.

Grant Shapps told Sky News on Monday that while the disruption was not a “specific problem” in the short term, the key was to “get it resolved”.

He said: “Immediately as soon as the French said, perhaps slightly surprisingly that they would stop hauliers, rather than just passengers, we were in touch with a group known as the Kent Resilience Forum. They are well used to planning for exactly these kind of circumstances

“We will be opening up Manston as a lorry park today and providing welfare for some of those drivers as well, while also being in very close contact with the French over what will happen next.

“The Kent Dover-to-Calais Eurotunnel, what we call the short straits, is probably about 20% of goods going to and from, in and out of the country.

“But it’s not the mainstay. Most goods actually come in and out by unaccompanied containers and those will continue to flow.”

Asked about what the shortages could be, Shapps said: “Obviously we don’t want these links to be closed for too long, but it’s not unusual for them to be closed and disrupted.

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“In the short term it’s not a specific problem. But of course the key is to get it resolved.”

He explained that the public will not notice any disruption in terms of supermarket shortages “for the most part” as a result of France’s freight lorry ban.

He said hauliers were “quite used to anticipating disruption”, adding there were variations in supply “all the time”.

“The absolute key is to get this resolved as soon as possible. I’ll be speaking again to my opposite number Jean-Baptiste (Djebbari) later this morning.

“There’s a meeting taking place actually right now in Europe about it, in order to co-ordinate approaches.

“It’s not really in anybody’s particular interest to not have hauliers going across, not least because they are mostly European hauliers and the goods are mostly theirs, so they will not want them perishing any more than we would want the border closed.”

Asked if consumers will see shortages in supermarkets, Mr Shapps added: “The supply chain is pretty robust in as much as you get variations in supply all the time. For the most part, people won’t notice it.”

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