Britain was cut off from Europe for a second day Tuesday.
British supermarkets warned of shortages of some goods just days before Christmas, and even if talks between the two nations result in the border being unsealed, the chaos will take days to resolve.
On Tuesday morning, police officers stood at the entrance of the English port of Dover with a large sign behind them that read “French Borders Closed.”
Police have instructed some drivers to get a coronavirus test at nearby Manston Airport in the hopes that a deal could be reached by the end of the day between French and British authorities.
In recent days, nearly 40 countries in Europe, Asia, South America and the Middle East have restricted travel from the UK, and in some cases also travel from other countries that have documented cases with the variant.
The French ban, which was imposed Sunday night, is the most significant because it includes restrictions on accompanied freight. The crossing between the English port of Dover and the French city of Calais is a major European trade artery, and the port of Dover handles around 17% of the UK’s goods imports.
There are almost 3,000 lorries stranded in Kent, a press officer for Kent County Council told CNN on Tuesday afternoon.
On the M20 motorway – a key gateway to the continent for freight trucks traveling in and out of the UK – there are 632 trucks and in the Manston Airport parking lot there are 2,188.
While drivers from Europe are not prohibited from entering the UK, fears are rising that hauliers will resist doing so for fear of not being able to return home, leading to food shortages.
The period leading up to Christmas is traditionally a busy time for trade, as fresh produce from Europe is imported for the festive period. On top of this, the UK is stockpiling ahead of the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31.
On Monday, Sainsbury’s, one of the UK’s leading supermarket chains, said If nothing changes, there will be shortages of lettuce, some salad leaves, cauliflowers, broccoli and citrus fruit.
Meanwhile, the British government says it is providing food, drink and toilets for British truck drivers currently stuck in gridlock in the area surrounding the Eurotunnel.
A Romanian driver named Adrian, who is stuck at Dover, told CNN: “A lot of people are making their holidays here in the cars … they cannot go home. It’s not good. We are lucky because we are here in Dover, but a lot of people are stuck on the roads. They can’t go to the toilet or have a shower.”
“We do not get respect at all … but if we are stopping, the whole of Europe is going to do nothing. This truck, that truck, they are delivering food … if they stop then nobody’s gonna eat.”
Adrian added that he had slept in his vehicle for the last three days with no assistance from the authorities or access to bathrooms or clean water. “It’s not a good situation. Many of us have families at home, they have kids at home.” He said he was making dinner off a small cooker from the back of his van.
Meanwhile, the challenges appearing at Dover could be a preview for what might happen on January 1, when the Brexit transition period ends and those barriers to trade go from being temporary to the status quo.
“Supply chains were already under pressure from the upcoming January 1 changes, so adding border closure has left us looking rather vulnerable,” David Henig, UK director of European Centre For International Political Economy, told CNN. “This is also coming at a poor time for global confidence in the UK, given border barriers are about to rise.”
Luke McGee reported and wrote from London; Salma Abdelaziz reported from Dover. Sharon Braithwaite contributed to this report.