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Call to reopen essential trade links to UK

European Commission

The European Commission said that freight transport must be allowed to continue but unnecessary journeys should be avoided

The European Commission called on member states to reopen critical trade and passenger transport links to the United Kingdom, while discouraging non-essential travel, a step towards ending the chaos at Britain’s busiest port.

The Brussels-based commission said in a statement that freight transport to and from the UK must be allowed to continue uninterrupted but that any unnecessary journeys should be avoided “until further notice”.

Flight and train bans should be discontinued given the need to ensure essential travel and avoid supply chain disruptions, the EU’s executive arm said on Tuesday.

The British government is desperately trying to reopen trade routes to France after a day of cross-Channel political bartering failed to end the impasse.

France shut down freight traffic from Dover in south-east England at midnight on Sunday due to fears over a faster-spreading mutant strain of Covid-19 that forced the UK government to impose a strict lockdown on London and surrounding areas.

Spain and Portugal, meanwhile, are among more than 40 countries restricting flights and effectively isolating the UK.

European Union ambassadors are set to discuss the recommendation later on Tuesday, and the bloc’s governments have previously vowed to coordinate their response.

Two days of border disruption have seen more than 1,500 trucks backed up along roads in south-east England and threatened shortages of some fresh food items in British supermarkets before Christmas.

Without an agreement, Britain will default to trading with the EU on World Trade Organization terms, with the imposition of costly tariffs and quotas.

Non-essential travel between the UK and the EU is set to be temporarily restricted anyway from Jan 1 when Britain leaves the customs union. As a so-called third country, the UK will be subject to Covid-19-related restrictions.

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