Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

‘Shelves are half empty!’: Shoppers despair as Brexit border chaos leaves shortages of salad, fresh veg, frozen food, wine, beer, and fruit

  • France is demanding that truckers have Covid tests 72 hours before entering leading to delays at ports 
  • No10 concerned Brexit border chaos could lead to food shortages amid plans to fast track supermarket lorries
  • Empty shelves widespread in Northern Ireland but are beginning to increase in mainland Britain today 
  • Scottish seafood industry on its knees because of export problems amid calls for industry to be bailed out 
  • National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations says PM surrendered to ‘neo-colonial relationship’ with EU

By Martin Robinson, Chief Reporter For Mailonline

Published: 12:01, 15 January 2021 | Updated: 17:15, 15 January 2021

Shoppers have complained of empty shelves in UK supermarkets with alcohol and staples including broccoli, tomatoes and cheese all missing as new Brexit rules hampered lorry drivers bringing in food from the EU and left truckers stranded at Dover for three days or more.  

Cauliflower packs, citrus fruit, aubergines, courgettes, mushrooms, strawberries, raspberries, melons and blueberries as well as products like French wine, Champagne, Cognac and brie and Italian olive oil and mozzarella are showing as unavailable at major supermarkets such as Tesco, Sainsbury’s, Asda and online giant Ocado. 

Frozen food is also low at some stores including cod and prawns from Iceland and Norway while British exports to the continent including fresh fish are left to rot on Scottish docks because of delays at ports.

Shoppers described their frustration at not being able to buy the fresh fruit and vegetables they wanted in a Sainsbury’s store in Melton, Leicestershire today – with a Sainsbury’s spokesperson telling Leicestershire Live the store had suffered delivery delays due to ‘an operational issue at one of our depots’. 

The problem at food production plants of staff going sick or needing to shield or self-isolate is an issue for the entire food industry, particularly chicken and red meat processors, while a ban on flights from South Africa and South America is also believed to hitting the supply of good such as wine, fruit and vegetables.

Ministers are preparing to allow supermarket lorries to skip queues at the Channel ports as fears of disruption to food supply chains into the UK intensify while there are also delays of clothes, beer and chocolate from Germany. 

Experts have warned that supplies are being squeezed by post-Brexit red tape at ports including France demanding that truckers have Covid tests which can take 72 hours to give a result before being let into Europe disturbing the flow of containers through Dover and Folkestone. 

Polish lorry driver Adrian Klapczynski, who is attempting to transport steel to his home country, said: ‘I’ve been here for three days. I need paperwork so I can go to Dover. People in the office keep telling me to come back the next day.

This is a big problem. I have to leave here.’ 

In a further blow to Boris Johnson over the UK’s trade borders, a senior Northern Ireland politician warned that Brexit rules that have left supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland empty of fresh food risk undermining the Good Friday Agreement. And the flow of good over the Irish Sea to mainland Britain of meat, milk and fresh food is also disrupted.  

And it is no easier for British businesses trying to export their goods to Europe with Scottish seafood firms are just ‘days from collapse’ and forced to leave fish rotting on the docks because of border chaos since leaving the EU, industry leaders have warned. 

The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations has said Boris Johnson surrendered to a ‘neo-colonial relationship’ with the EU on fish under the Brexit agreement that came into force on January 1 with products like langoustine taking five days to arrive on the continent rather than the usual 24 hours.

Britain’s ports were already under huge pressure before January 1 after Covid-19 shattered the system for shipping goods around the world causing a shortage of containers and supply chain problems from covid-hit China, Vietnam and Japan hitting Christmas presents and electronics, including the PS5 and Apple headphones.    

The container shortage was exacerbated by a lack of staff across the global supply chain – including sailors, hauliers and warehouse workers – due to people falling ill or having to quarantine because of coronavirus.

This led to shipping firms falling behind when it came to retrieving empty containers from European ports and taking them back to factories in Asia. 

The chaos at the ports came as:  

  • Boris Johnson was urged to double his target for 14million vaccinations by mid-February today amid signs brutal lockdowns have finally started to curb the coronavirus outbreak;
  • A Brazilian coronavirus variant that experts fear could make vaccines less effective may have first emerged in Britain in November, it emerged today as No10 was accused of ‘putting lives at risk’ by being too slow to close the borders; 
  • Cambridge University researchers believe the R rate – the average number of people each infected person passes the disease onto – may have dipped to as low as 0.6 in London and the South East. The figure must be below one for an outbreak to shrink.
  • Another 48,682 infections were recorded yesterday, down 7.5 per cent on the same day last week, but deaths in the past 24 hours rose by 1,248 – a 7.4 per cent climb from last week’s 1,162;

Pictured: some Fruit and Vegetables were running low at a Tesco in South London

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Depleted shelves at a Marks & Spencer supermarket in Dublin’s city centre as Brexit border chaos ensues

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Some frozen food was running low at an Asda in South London as choice is reduced for shoppers because of post-Brexit chaos at the ports 

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Fresh vegetables were in short supply at the Sainsbury’s in Dursley, Gloucestershire, this afternoon in a familiar scene across the country

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

French spirits like Cognac and Grand Marnier are missing as well as German pilsner in UK supermarkets today

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Fresh food such as aubergine, chanterelle mushrooms, baby plum tomatoes, broccoli and courgettes are in short supply at UK supermarkets, MailOnline can reveal

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Truckers queuing to get the paperwork sorted at the Ashford truck stop in  Kent as red tape begins to bite  

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Dozens of lorries queue at junction 10a of the M20 as they wait to get the documentation to leave Britain with drivers claiming they have been waiting for days for clearance

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Lorries queue for a customs facility in Ashford, Kent, as Channel traffic builds up following a quiet start to the year and the end of the transition period

PM accused of surrendering to ‘neo-colonial relationship’ with EU over Brexit fish deal 

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

The National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations has said Boris Johnson surrendered to a ‘neo-colonial relationship’ with the EU on fish under the Brexit agreement that came into force on January 1.

A third of fishing boats in Scotland are currently tied up at harbours and crewmen are forced to stay on land without pay.

The industry is estimated to be losing GBP1million a day. A lack of buyers has seen many species of Scottish seafood plummet in price by around 50 per cent this week.

Fishermen have been unable to export their produce on time following the UK’s departure from the European Union due to delays with the new customs procedures.

A letter in The Times said: ‘It is not that, in the end, you were forced to concede in the face of an intransigent and powerful opponent that has caused such fury across our industry, it is that you have tried to present the agreement as a major success when it is patently clear that it is not.’ 

Hauliers struggling to get the correct paperwork to return to the EU are being forced to wait for days at a Kent lorry park.

Queues of more than a mile have built up on the approach to Ashford International truck stop this week.

Steve Cock, a director at The Custom House, a firm which provides lorry drivers with the documents they need to move goods in and out of the UK, said the disruption has been exacerbated by Border Force officials occupying the truck stop.

This is preventing drivers using his company’s services from taking advantage of its 600 parking spaces.

‘It’s not doing (Border Force) any good being here,’ Mr Cock said.

‘The whole process is slowed down.

‘Because they refuse to let us use the truck stop to park our vehicles, that’s causing all sorts of problems because drivers will park anywhere they please.

‘They’re inhibiting a commercial enterprise that is there to help them.’

He added: ‘The French were ready for this, the Dutch were ready for this.

It’s an embarrassment that we never were.’

Grant Shapps told Sky News he was ‘working well’ with French ministers and it was the biggest testing scheme for lorry drivers in the world.

Asked about the PCR issue, he said: ‘What the French PM actually said was that border workers would be excluded – hauliers are included in that.’

‘For the time being no, it’s lateral flow testing, and the French and us work very closely together on that to make sure everybody is tested.

He added: ‘We are finding very low levels of coronavirus, something like 0.3 which is much lower than the national average here or in France.

‘Long distance drivers, they live in their lorries by and large, they sleep in their cabs, it is quite a solitary arrangement and it means they are not very likely to be carrying the coronavirus around.’

Polish haulier Hubert Kempara, 30, expressed his relief after France said truckers would be exempt from the new PCR test ruling coming into force on Monday.

He arrived at the Motis freight clearance stop in Dover at around 10am and hopes to have crossed the Channel with his cargo of British fish set for Poland by the afternoon.

Mr Kempara said: ‘It is such a good thing that this new test rule does not apply to us.

‘The new rules are hard enough for lorry drivers to follow so this would have made things even more difficult.

‘I really don’t know how they could have expected us to wait around for 72 hours for the result. It would have been like Christmas all over again.’

He applied for his export documents at the nearby office within five minutes before waiting to get the all clear.

Mr Kempara added: ‘I have had no problems so far. It has been okay.

Fingers crossed.

‘If I have a problem, I call my boss and they sort it out.

‘But we have been well prepared for this a long time ago.

‘I know others have not been so lucky with Brexit.’ 

Scottish seafood firms are just ‘days from collapse’ unless emergency cash is paid out to compensate for the Brexit border chaos, industry leaders have warned.

Desperate bosses said they face imminent closure as they urged Boris Johnson to deliver on his pledge to finally support the struggling sector.

A third of fishing boats in Scotland are currently tied up at harbours and crewmen are forced to stay on land without pay.

The industry is estimated to be losing GBP1million a day. A lack of buyers has seen many species of Scottish seafood plummet in price by around 50 per cent this week.

Fishermen have been unable to export their produce on time following the UK’s departure from the European Union due to delays with the new customs procedures.

Jamie McMillan, managing director of Lochfyne Langoustines, has threatened to dump tons of rotting seafood at Downing Street next week if the problems are not resolved.

He said: ‘We can’t continue to let this happen for another week because we will be out of business.’

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

There are also gaps in the world foods sections as flights carrying products are also disrupted because of the virus

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Empty food shelves in Tesco, Belfast, as supermarkets suffer disruption to food supplies after the end of the Brexit transition period

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Depleted shelves of tomatoes and fresh fruit at Asda in Leeds today as many products go missing because of ports chaos

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Lorries queue in at the border control of the Port of Dover today as red tape causes more delays and problems with both imports and exports into the UK

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Lorries queue for a customs facility in Ashford, Kent, as Channel traffic builds up following a quiet start to the year and the end of the transition period

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

A truck approaches the entrance to the Port of Dover as police officers prepare to check documents as the flow of goods from Europe slows

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Workers unload sacs of scallops at Oban in Scotland where seafood exporters say products are being left to rot

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

This glotech graphic show the main imports from Europe into the UK, with beef from Ireland, wine from France and vegetables the biggest ticket items entering the country each year. There are concerns the flow of goods

The key issues causing delays at British ports 

Problems at ports are being caused by a series of problems occurring at once which are not all unique to the UK. 

COVID – shipping container shortage

The system for shipping goods around the world stopped working properly when economies shut down and reopened at different times as they dealt with Covid.

This led to shipping firms falling behind when it came to retrieving empty containers from European ports and taking them back to factories in Asia.

The container shortage is being exacerbated by a lack of staff across the global supply chain – including sailors, hauliers and warehouse workers – due to people falling ill or having to quarantine.

The problems caused by Covid have been compounded by a surge in demand caused by:

BREXIT – customs and stockpiling

France is demanding lorry drivers heading into the EU are required to provide a negative Covid-19 test within 72-hours of travelling.

They also need to have paperwork filled out in advance. 

Companies have been stockpiling goods out of fear of having to pay tariffs, or because they are concerned that new customs procedures after Brexit will delay imports. 

Supplies of fresh fruit and vegetables were also down across the supermarkets, particularly the berries and soft fruit from Europe.

At Tesco in Ipswich Road, Norwich, there were no strawberries left. Staff said they had supplies at the beginning of the week, but not for the last few days.

Strawberries and raspberries were also missing at the Sainsbury’s in Castle Vale retail park, Birmingham, which was also struggling with supplies of cauliflower and cabbage.

They had none at all on Tuesday and none again on Fridat.

A nearly bare shelf of bottled water greeted customers just after 1pm at Waitrose in Wilmslow, Cheshire.

There were shortages of the supermarket’s own brand as well as Evian water and Highland’s Water.

One woman shopper, joked: ‘There must be a lot of thirsty people round here.’

There were also shortages of marmite, grapes and French and Belgian beer.

But a shop worker denied there were shortages with a masked silver-haired man, who was stacking wine, saying: ‘Oh no, we just have brought the stocks out yet’.

Empty spaces were also evident in the fruit and vegetable sections in a big Asda in Trafford Park, Gtr Manchester right by the Trafford Centre.

There were gaps in boxes of grapefruit and watermelons. Fresh orange juice was also low.

And olive oil was also in short supply.

Speaking outside the store, father-of-one Mike Kerr, 38, of nearby Davyhulme, said: ‘There seems to be less of everything.

‘Mind you there are no massive gaps or anything. It’s strange as the shop wasn’t busy at all.

‘Perhaps they haven’t had deliveries.

I bought some beer and there seemed to be less than there nearly is.

‘Maybe people are drinking more or they can’t get it.’

Poppadoms were also running low in Tesco in Wythenshawe, Manchester and there were a few empty shelves in the milk sale.

There were also a few bare spaces in the milk aisle in Sainsbury’s in Cheadle, Gtr Manchester.

And there was also just one box of frozen cooked mussels in Aldi in Sharston, Manchester.

It came after shipping firm DFDS announced a further delay in exports of Scottish consignments of seafood to the EU. It halted shipments last week after delays in getting new paperwork for the EU border posts in France.

Some loads which would normally take 24 hours to reach France from Glasgow are taking three to five days to get there, reducing the freshness and value of the food.

Last week food industry experts and the Cabinet minister with responsibility for Brexit, Michael Gove, warned that problems at the ports are likely to escalate from today as the number of trucks going through Dover and the Channel Tunnel rises to normal levels after a New Year lull as the French step up enforcement of post-Brexit paperwork.

Freight expert John Shirley said: ‘The chaos has begun. Organising even the simplest load to Europe has become an almost impossible task due to the mountain of red tape brought in on January 1.’

The Road Haulage Association said there are already logjams and this situation will escalate when border controls with France are stepped up from today.

The group estimates that of the 2,000 outbound lorries a day through Dover and the Channel Tunnel last week, one in five were turned back.

It said problems will surge as these numbers increase to the normal 6,000 a day. 

Its managing director for policy, Rod McKenzie, said: ‘Drivers are being turned back for a variety of reasons, including not having a valid Covid test. At the same time, they are being told the paperwork has not been done satisfactorily’. 

Mr Gove admitted: ‘In the weeks ahead, we expect there will be significant additional disruption.’

Commercial director at fresh produce wholesaler Nature’s Choice, Vernon Mascarenhas, said: ‘We will begin to see gaps on shelves from this Wednesday. The only way to resolve it is for the Government to sort out the paperwork issue. 

‘This should have been at the top of the Government’s agenda, but it did not even cross their radar.’  

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

A lorry driver waits in his cab while his paperwork is processed at a customs facility in Ashford, Kent

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

 Lorry drivers manoeuvre their trucks as they park before speaking to customs but traffic between the EU and Britain remains down

PCR vs lateral flow Covid tests: Chaos as UK and France clash over type of testing used for truckers

The French government is demanding that any travellers from the UK, including truckers, take PCR tests before arriving in the country, which can take up to three days to return a result.

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PCR TEST AND A LATERAL FLOW? 

A PCR test can cost upwards of GBP180 per person, with the swab needing to be processed in a lab. 

The UK, on the other hand, favours faster tests which are not lab based and give a result within 15 minutes.

These rapid coronavirus tests, known as lateral flow tests, are ones that can be done on the spot using portable equipment.

They are faster and cheaper than lab-based PCR tests, which the government uses to diagnose people, but are less accurate. 

LATERAL FLOW TESTS ARE RAPID – BUT CAN SACRIFICE ACCURACY

In a lateral flow test a swab is used to get a sample from the person’s nose or throat and it is then processed in a small machine that tries to detect the coronavirus by mixing the sample with something the virus would react with.

If there is a reaction in the mixture it suggests that the person is carrying coronavirus.

If not, they get a negative result. This process can be completed in as little as 15 minutes.

You take your own swab though a professional on site processes it through the machine.   

Results from trials have varied wildly and show the tests perform better when the swabs are done by trained medics and worse when people do them themselves. 

PCR TESTS CAN TAKE SEVERAL DAYS TO GET RESULTS – BUT ARE MORE ACCURATE 

These lateral flow tests differ from the gold standard PCR test – known scientifically as polymerase chain reaction testing. 

PCR tests also use a swab but this is then processed using high-tech laboratory equipment to analyse the genetic sequence of the sample to see if any of it matches the genes of coronavirus.

This is a much more long-winded and expensive process, involving multiple types of trained staff, and the analysis process can take hours, with the whole process from swab to someone receiving their result taking days.

It is significantly more accurate, however. In ideal conditions the tests are almost 100 per cent accurate at spotting the virus, although this may be more like 70 per cent in the real world. 

SO, WHAT IS THE BENEFIT OF LATERAL FLOW TESTING? 

Extreme accuracy may be a drawback for PCR now that so many people have been infected, however, with the tests able to detect shreds of the virus in people who recovered weeks ago and are no longer infectious, which may lead them to have to self-isolate unnecessarily.

Lateral flow tests are more likely to miss people who are carrying the virus but, experts say, do have value as a way of weeding out people carrying large amounts of the virus and therefore most likely to be spreading the disease.

 

Last month the French government banned HGV drivers from crossing the English Channel in a desperate bid to prevent the spread of ‘mutant’ coronavirus detected in London and the South and East of England.

The unprecedented ban left thousands of lorry drivers stranded in Kent during the Christmas period and led to clashes with police at the border.

This was only resolved when the UK gave drivers lateral flow tests which take 20 minutes to produce a positive or negative result.

But now the French government is worried about the accuracy of the tests and has called on the UK to introduce a fully saliva-based PCR test for the truckers, according to the Times.  

Ministers, who are already drawing up plans to allow supermarket lorries to bypass queues at the Channel ports amid fears of food shortages in the UK, are concerned that the demand will result in gridlock at the border again. 

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) said that drivers already queue for up to eight hours in the Waterbrook Park estate while waiting for approval for border paperwork.

The park is being used for customs checks until March, when the massive 1,700-capacity Kent lorry park will then take over operations.

A spokesperson said: ‘Trucks are sat there for hours at a time and not able to pass go. It’s no surprise to us. The systems they’re using are untested.

‘They’ve had no time whatsoever to get used to a raft of new processes.

It’s a perfect storm of the worrying delays that were going to happen. The worry is that the capacity and volumes are below usual and it’s quieter than usual.’ 

It is thought that massive queues are being caused by a lack of staff to process paperwork at the site, with traffic at Dover having increased in the past week and now running at two-thirds of the normal rate for the time of year.

Meanwhile, Brexit disruption has lead to deserted ‘ghost ferries’ leaving for France, with boats on the Dover to Calais route which should be filled with HGVs and drivers eerily quiet – while many trucks are being held up at factories, warehouses and truck stops across the UK, rather than heading to Europe.  

Certain vehicles will be given access to open lanes on the M20 in Kent during delays at the Port of Dover and the Eurotunnel terminal in order to cross the Channel, refill and return as quickly as possible.

The consultation document issued by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) says these are ’emergency measures only to be used in extremis and for the shortest time possible’.

The scheme would be triggered once congestion on the approach roads to Dover reaches eight hours, and deliveries to UK supermarkets fall below 75 per cent of the schedule for two consecutive days.     

It came as truckers queued for up to eight hours for their border paperwork to be signed off at a beleaguered Brexit lorry park in Kent.

Photos show drivers left waiting in the rain in a giant queue at the Waterbrook Park estate off the M20 in Ashford, which is being used for customs checks until the end of February.

In the documents, Defra said ‘the potential for further disruption remains high’ due to the pandemic and new border processes and procedures resulting from the end of the Brexit transition period.

It went on: ‘The combination of these unprecedented factors is likely to contribute to delays at the border which could, in turn, prevent the speedy return of empty goods vehicles to the EU where they can collect more food.

‘Such delays are likely to have a direct impact on the UK’s food supply.’ 

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson urged the Government to intervene to resolve the issues that have hindered the flow of food products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland since the end of the transition period.

Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Tesco have all faced supply issues after the new customs paperwork came in following the transition period ending on January 1. 

Fresh fruit, vegetables and chilled meat are among the products most affected as many food suppliers face delays on getting goods into the country.

Defra is also proposing to fast track Gibraltar-bound groceries, as it relies on the UK for about half of its food supply. 

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Photos show drivers left waiting in the rain in a giant queue at the Waterbrook Park estate off the M20 in Ashford in Kent, which is being used for customs checks until the end of February

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Police officers manage freight lorries queueing for the Ashford International Truckstop in Ashford, Kent

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

The site is at near capacity as Channel traffic builds up following a quiet start to the year and the end of the transition period with the European Union on December 31

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

The Prime Minister said ‘teething problems’ were to blame for a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables in Ulster in the past weeks – branding the situation as ‘absurd’.

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Truckers are queuing for hours for paperwork checks – and even being delayed for using the wrong colour ink – as Brexit disruption leads to deserted ‘ghost ferries’ leaving for France

‘Ghost ferries’ across the Channel as red tape delays truckers 

Truckers are queuing for hours for paperwork checks – and even being delayed for using the wrong colour ink – as Brexit disruption leads to deserted ‘ghost ferries’ leaving for France.

Boats on the crucial Dover to Calais route that should be filled with HGVs and drivers are eerily quiet. Many trucks are being held up at factories, warehouses and truck stops across the UK, rather than heading to Europe.

Delays are mainly down to hauliers having difficulty getting the correct paperwork in place to cross the Channel, as well as hold-ups in drivers getting Covid-19 tests.

Separately, there has been a sharp fall in orders for British products and produce, such as shellfish, fish and pork.

The Road Haulage Association (RHA) estimates that truck levels are down by 40 per cent.

The RHA said drivers were left waiting for hours to get their paperwork checked at a truck stop in Ashford, Kent. Some are being held back because authorisation stamps are in the wrong place or for using the wrong colour of ink.

John Shirley, a Dover-based freight handling expert, took pictures of an empty ferry on a sailing from Calais to Dover on Wednesday.

‘It was eerily quiet, a ghost ferry. There were only a fraction of the trucks and drivers that would be expected,’ he said. ‘Lots of companies and hauliers are just not making shipments, probably because of concerns about paperwork and negotiating customs.’

 

It comes as Food and Drink Federation chief executive Ian Wright expressed concern about the potential for delays at the Channel ports as the numbers of lorries making the crossing picked up over the coming months.

‘It will get worse.

Currently volumes across the short straits are at about 2,000 lorries. They should be around 10,000. So the opportunity for the scale of concerns to rise is huge,’ he said.

British Retail Consortium director Andrew Opie also issued a warning over disruption to goods crossing the Channel, saying ‘it will get worse before it gets better’.

He said he is on watch for any impact this week and onwards, with British businesses ‘still not 100% prepared’ for the changes as the French step up customs checks.

Rod McKenzie, director of policy at the Road Haulage Association (RHA), said the delays In Kent were ‘shocking’ as the industry body branded the situation a ‘perfect storm’. 

Tesco chief executive Ken Murphy said: ‘We have seen some limited disruption into the Republic of Ireland and into the North of Ireland but we’re working very closely with Government on both sides of the Irish Sea to smooth the flow of products.’ 

HMRC said the average wait time is 65 minutes in Ashford but that drivers are warned to expect delays and are encouraged to pre-book a space online. 

After the lengthy wait to have their documents approved, frustrated truckers then need to be tested for coronavirus before they are allowed to proceed over the Channel.

The delayed, 1,700-capacity Sevington Lorry Park will take over the task from Waterbrook in March, as fears continue to grow over long delays as a result of the UK’s exit from the EU, with business chiefs admitting things will ‘get worse before they get better’. 

Under Brexit rules which came into force on January 1, hauliers headed to the EU need to obtain a Kent Access Permit and complete the correct paperwork for their cargo, or else they could be fined.

It comes after chaotic scenes over Christmas saw thousands of lorries trapped in Kent when France closed its border with Britain due to the discovery of a new fast-spreading Covid variant in the UK.

PM warned Good Friday Agreement is ‘at risk’ from Brexit trade rules that have left supermarket shelves EMPTY of fruit and vegetables

Boris Johnson was warned that Brexit trade rules that have left supermarket shelves in Northern Ireland empty of fresh food risk undermining the Good Friday Agreement. 

DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson urged the Government to intervene to resolve the issues that have hindered the flow of food products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland since the end of the transition period.

Sainsbury’s, Marks & Spencer and Tesco have all faced supply issues after the new customs paperwork came in following the transition period ending on January 1.

Fresh fruit, vegetables and chilled meat are among the products most affected as many food suppliers face delays on getting goods into the country.

The Prime Minister said ‘teething problems’ were to blame for a lack of fresh fruit and vegetables in Ulster in the past weeks – branding the situation as ‘absurd’.

But Unionist Sir Jeffrey warned that the 1998 Anglo-Irish deal which ended three decades of bitter violence risks being breached as a result of disruption to post-Brexit Irish Sea trade.

He told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The protocol (which governs the new arrangements) is damaging the Northern Ireland economy and if it damages the Northern Ireland economy it actually undermines the Good Friday agreement.

‘And furthermore, that agreement makes clear that Northern Ireland will remain an integral part of the United Kingdom unless the people of Northern Ireland vote otherwise.

‘Therefore this breaches a fundamental element of the Good Friday agreement by increasingly separating Northern Ireland from Great Britain in trading terms – our biggest trading partner, our biggest trading market, and that simply doesn’t help anyone in Northern Ireland.’ 

Posting a photo on Twitter yesterday, Mr McKenzie of the RHA wrote: ‘Ashford truck stop today with drivers queuing for up to eight hours to get their border paperwork cleared then having to get COVID test afterwards for France.’ 

A spokesperson for the association said: ‘Trucks are sat there for hours at a time and not able to pass go.

It’s no surprise to us. The systems they’re using are untested.

‘Everything has been last minute. They’ve had no time whatsoever to get used to a raft of new processes.

It’s a perfect storm of the worrying delays that were going to happen.

‘The worry is that the capacity and volumes are below usual and it’s quieter than usual. We’re really, really concerned about what happens when volumes are returned to normal.’

It is thought that the queues are being caused by a lack of staff to process paperwork checks at the site.

A HMRC spokesperson said: ‘HMRC has set up five inland border facilities across the country for hauliers to use. Drivers are encouraged to pre-book their space at an inland border facility by using our online service, which will allow them to see how busy each site is in advance so that they can avoid delays.  

‘With a majority of drivers using Ashford Waterbrook, this has led to longer waiting times and we have advised drivers to expect delays.

‘Current site data has shown that the average wait time is 65 minutes.

However, any driver concerned about the wait time may choose to visit an alternative location.’

Traffic at Dover has increased in the last week and is now running at two thirds of the normal rate for the time of the year, according to the Port of Dover.

Yesterday a three and a half mile queue of lorries had built up on the M20 due to Operation Brock, according to motorists. 

The transport management system, which was originally devised to cope with the possible fallout of a no-deal Brexit, queues lorries in the left hand lane of the M20 – allowing other vehicles to continue flowing smoothly. 

In the Kent village of Sevington, a ‘glut’ of lorries were reported to be clogging up roads in the area.

The sleepy parish, home to just over 300 people, is surrounded by the Waterbrook Park site and the partially operational giant post-Brexit Sevington Lorry Park, where Covid-19 testing is taking place.

According to figures from Sevington South councillor, Paul Bartlett, 690 lorries had passed through the Waterbrook site in the 24 hours up to 9pm last night. 

A further 1,190 people had used the Sevington Covid testing site. 

Cllr Bartlett said: ‘There’s a lack of communication between various agencies and a lack of communication when traffic is moved between the two sites unfortunately.

‘It’s important to make sure that there’s not a glut of them at the same time.’ 

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Diggers were at the Dover White Cliffs site in Guston on Monday to start work on a post-Brexit customs check point

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Work is underway on another customs checkpoint, with space for up to 1,700 lorries, in Sevington, Ashford

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Kent will have five customs check facilities up and running by July, which will monitor traffic using the Eurotunnel and the Port of Dover  

Diggers get to work on another lorry park as they carve up farmland above White Cliffs of Dover

Work has begun on yet another Kent lorry park as diggers carved up farmland above the White Cliffs of Dover for a new post-Brexit customs facility.

Once complete, the site in Guston, near Dover, will open as a customs checkpoint facility, with the ability to hold 1,200 lorries, should there be delays at the ports similar to those seen last month. 

Work is well underway at a similar facility in Sevington, Ashford, which will be able to hold up to 2,000 trucks.

The sites in Guston and Sevington are set to be used for post-Brexit customs checks to prevent delays at nearby ports – with three other sites in Kent are set to also be up and running by July.

But villagers are up in arms over at Guston, referred to as the Dover White Cliffs site, amid fears it will replace Manston Airport as the main holding bay for lorries in the event of cross-Channel delays. 

He added that the queues around the village yesterday began at 6.30pm and lasted two hours.

Earlier this week, work began on yet another Kent lorry park as diggers carved up farmland above the White Cliffs of Dover for a new post-Brexit customs facility.

Once complete, the site in Guston, near Dover, will open as a customs checkpoint facility, with the ability to hold 1,200 lorries, should there be delays at the ports similar to those seen last month. 

The sites in Guston and Sevington are set to be used for post-Brexit customs checks to prevent delays at nearby ports – with three other sites in Kent set to also be up and running by July.

But villagers are up in arms over at Guston, referred to as the Dover White Cliffs site, amid fears it will replace Manston Airport as the main holding bay for lorries in the event of cross-Channel delays. 

Once up and running, the 70-acre Dover White Cliffs site will carry out checks for the Port of Dover, while Sevington will monitor Eurotunnel checks. 

Work on the Kent coast comes after thousands of lorries trapped were trapped in the county last month when France closed its border to Britain.

Lorry drivers were forced to park up at Manston Airport, where there is provision for 4,000 HGVs, as well as Ashford International Lorry Park, which has space for 200, while the M20 was also used as a holding bay under Operation Stack. 

Meanwhile, Kent Police has revealed it has issued more than 407 fines to HGV drivers who failed to obtain a valid Kent Access Permit before entering the county.

A further 152 HGV drivers have breached traffic regulation orders, including attempting to bypass Operation Brock.

Assistant Chief Constable Claire Nix of Kent Police said: ‘Whilst the majority of HGV drivers travelling to Europe via the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel are entering the county with a valid Kent Access Permit in place, there are still too many who we are having to stop, fine and turn back to their point of origin.

‘If this trend continues then it could potentially lead to traffic disruption here in Kent, where the volume of freight is expected to increase significantly over the next few weeks.’ 

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Truckers clash with police at Manston Airport in Kent last month, where thousands of lorries were parked up as France closed its border with Britain

Brexit: Shoppers despair as border chaos leaves food shortages

Dark clouds loomed over thousands of lorries parked up at Manston airfield in Kent last month, as they waited to be given the green light to continue their journey over the Channel

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