Boris Johnson has been called a liar by MPs after appearing to downplay the severity of the Covid-induced French border crisis, as hundreds of lorries remain stranded and an airport was turned into a giant overflow lorry park.
Drone footage on Tuesday captured at least 1,500 lorries stuck in Kent after France closed its borders to the UK for 48 hours on Sunday and over 50 countries banned British arrivals over a new coronavirus mutation.
Home Secretary Priti Patel said 650 lorries are currently waiting on the M20 motorway, with another 873 parked on the runway of Kent’s Manston Airport.
This is more than the 170 lorries that Johnson said on Monday were queuing on the M20, prompting opposition MPs to issue furious statements, accusing the beleaguered prime minister of misrepresenting the gravity of the situation.
Hundreds of backed-up lorries queue to cross the Channel into France as a former airfield turns into a makeshift lorry park.Read more on this story: https://t.co/YoL7zrmamupic.twitter.com/6ClcgzPAK0
Labour’s shadow transport secretary, Jim McMahon, said Johnson had “tried to cover up” the full extent of the lorry backlog by claiming that there were only 170 vehicles queued.
“This is desperate stuff from the PM at a time of crisis. He needs to come clean about the situation and get a grip,” he added.
Another Labour MP, Maria Eagle, referred to the PM as “liar Johnson,” while the SNP’s Ronnie Cowan accused him of “spewing misinformation and propaganda.”
Johnson had a phone call with French President Emmanuel Macron about the situation on Tuesday, which Johnson said would be cleared up “in the next few hours.”
There are now reports that the army will be drafted in to give stranded drivers rapid turnaround Covid-19 tests, as part of a deal with France to unblock the flow of trade heading from Dover.
The European Commission recommended in Tuesday that the travel bans imposed on the UK should be lifted in order to allow essential travel to resume.
Most of the EU’s 27 member states have also shut their borders to the UK, along with other countries, including India, Iran and Canada, while lorries are still not leaving the UK via the Port of Dover or Eurotunnel to France.
French European Affairs Minister Clement Beaune has said any agreement between Johnson and Macron would come into effect on Wednesday, according to the BBC.
Both supermarkets and the government have said that UK shoppers do not need to panic buy, as food supplies will remain stable.
The chaos comes after UK Health Secretary Matt Hancock revealed on December 14 that British scientists had discovered a new strain of Covid-19, which early evidence suggests is 70 percent more contagious than the original form of the virus.
However, the World Health Organization’s emergencies chief, Mike Ryan, said there is “zero evidence that the new coronavirus variant increases severity of the disease.”
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