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French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari has told Sky News a plan is being worked on to resume the movement of unaccompanied freight from the UK to France with cross-EU talks "to begin within hours".

The move to "establish a solid health protocol" comes after the UK governement and industry groups warned of "serious disruption" following France's decison to refuse arrivals of UK passengers for 48 hours amid concerns over a new strain of the cororavirus.

Freight trucks have been banned from using the Eurotunnel and the port of Dover is currently closed to outbound traffic.

Operation Stack has been mobilised in Kent to help deal with the rapidly growing backlog of trucks.

Kent police have closed the coast-bound carriageway of the M20 between junctions 8 and 11 as a contigency measure.

The DfT has also confirmed that Manston Airport in Kent is set to take up to 4,000 lorries to ease congestion. It is estimated that around 10,000 trucks a day travel between Dover and Calais at peak periods.

However, transport secretary Grant Schapps confirmed the UK's supply of the Covid vaccine won't be disrupted.

"There's no issue (with the vaccine) at all," he told Sky News. "Most of the vaccine does not come on a roll in, roll off. In other words it's not accompanied by a driver, it comes on containers.

"There are good supplies in the meantime so there won't be an impact on the vaccination programme.

"But it's obviously important we get this resolved with the French and that's what we'll be trying to do today."

Alex Veitch, general manager at Logistics UK said he was "very concerned" about the welfare of drivers travelling from the UK to France and is urgently seeking more information for members.

"Driver health and safety is our key concern," he said, "and it is essential that they continue to be recognised as key workers and given access to testing, if necessary, as a priority to ensure the continued movement of goods to and from France.

“Shoppers should not panic buy – retailers will be making every effort to ensure there is stock within the system, including fresh produce, and it is important that we remember that inbound traffic still has access to the UK. We are maintaining close contact with UK government to ensure that supplies of fresh produce are available throughout Christmas and the New Year.

“Our advice to members is to check with ports before travelling, and keep in close contact with drivers to ensure their welfare is maintained.”

However, RHA chief executive Richard Burnett told the BBC's Today programme that the ban could leave EU hauliers reluctant to travel to the UK for fear of being stranded.

"Fresh food supply, where it's short shelf life, and there will be product on its way now, is where the challenge will come from," he said.

"Retailers will be assessing their inbound flows this morning and understanding whether or not those flow are on their way into the retail distribution centres around the country and I'm sure there will be further reassurance given today that those things are under control."

He urged shoppers not to panic buy, saying retailers have brought in more ambient stock than usual for the time of year amid long-standing industry concerns about border delays after transition.

"The Christmas supply chain is resilient and our industry is very good at making sure we’ve got all the goods we need as we’ve shown throughout the pandemic," he said.

“So we urge people not to panic buy which could spark unnecessary shortages in January when some goods could already be harder to come by.”

Burnett also questioned the wisdom of the French blockade when British drivers are isolated in their cabs: "Truckers typically have low Covid-19 infection rates given the nature of their jobs and minimal contact they have with others so it doesn’t make sense that they can’t cross the border into France.

"We’re reassured that UK ministers are making every effort to resolve this issue with their French counterparts as quickly as possible," he added.