One arrested as angry lorry drivers clash with police in Dover amid border chaos

Frustration rises on Kent coast among ‘very, very angry’ truckers

Adam Forrest
Wednesday 23 December 2020 18:56 GMT
Lorry drivers clash with police in Dover

Angry lorry drivers have been seen scuffling with police at the port of Dover as hauliers continue their long wait to cross the English Channel into France.

TV footage showed pushing and shoving, as officers struggled to hold back dozens of drivers who had gathered to vent their frustration on Wednesday morning.

Kent Police said one man had been arrested following “disturbances” at both Dover and the disused airfield site at Manston. The man is being held for obstructing a highway at Dover, the force said.

Thousands of truckers have become stranded since the border was shut on Sunday due to fears over the “out of control” new coronavirus variant.

France has now partially lifted the travel ban, but said those seeking to cross into the country from the UK must have a negative Covid-19 result.

However, there are no Covid testing facilities at Dover and at least 2,800 drivers gridlocked near the port are being told they must go to the airfield site at Manston, according to Kent Online.

Around 100 lorry drivers have reportedly blocked Hengist Way in protest at not being allowed to leave the holding site.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said drivers were “very, very angry” that they had not been able to be tested, lack of clear information and inadequate facilities.

A spokesperson for Kent Police said: “We have been responding to disturbances in Dover and Manston this morning involving individuals hoping to cross the Channel. One arrest has been made and we continue to work with partner agencies to ensure everyone is kept informed of the latest procedures and requirements.”

Communities secretary Robert Jenrick warned it may take a “few days” to clear the huge backlog of vehicles waiting to cross the Channel, and said he hoped some lorries would begin crossing on Wednesday morning.

Mr Jenrick told Sky News on Wednesday that drivers will receive rapid lateral flow tests, followed by a PCR test if they come back positive. But the minister did not say if testing would soon be available at Dover.

The RHA estimates between 8,000 and 10,000 delayed lorries are now stuck at various sites in Kent and its surrounding areas, waiting to cross the Channel.

Rod McKenzie, director of the RHA, said the situation amounted to “chaos”. He told the BBC: “The testing regime hasn’t started yet and without that start the borders can’t effectively open.”

The haulage chief added: “So what we’ve got this morning is very, very angry truckers in Dover. Some of the them as we know have been shouting at police, a few scuffles and the like. They’re tired, frustrated and desperately want to get home for Christmas.”

Mr Jenrick said, as of 7pm on Tuesday night, there were just under 3,000 lorries at Manston. Another 700 to 800 were gridlocked on the M20 as part of Operation Stack, he said, but “other HGVs and smaller vehicles are parked elsewhere in Kent”.

“Whatever the number is, whether it is 4,000 or more, it is a significant number to work through,” Mr Jenrick acknowledged as he advised hauliers not to travel to Kent.

Transport secretary Grant Shapps has announced a temporary relaxation of drivers’ hours for hauliers, increasing the driving limit of nine hours to 11, to help them get through UK borders safely over the coming weeks.

Frustrated lorry drivers were also seen honking their truck horns and flashing lights in unison in the dark during the early hours of Wednesday morning.

The Independent has contacted Kent Police for further details on the confrontation with hauliers at Dover.

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