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Thousands of trucks mass at Dover in cross-Channel chaos

France and Britain reopened cross-Channel travel on Wednesday December 23 after a 48-hour ban to curb the spread of a new coronavirus variant but London has warned it could take days for thousands of trucks blocked around the port of Dover to get moving.

Thousands of trucks mass at Dover in cross-Channel chaos
Image: FRANCOIS LO PRESTI / AFP

The major transit hub reopened following an agreement between London and Paris to allow hauliers stranded in the UK to leave the country if they could produce a negative coronavirus test that was less than 72 hours old. 

“It will take a few days to work our way through,” Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick told Sky News. “There’s going to be quite a lot of work to do.”

Much of Europe had swiftly banned British travellers following the emergence of a more transmissible variant of Covid-19 in Britain, and France’s decision to block freight movements sparked fears of food shortages.

As dramatic images showed masses of lorries backed up in Dover, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was under intense pressure to resolve the deadlock – even as 11th-hour talks with Brussels on a post-Brexit trade deal were at a stalemate.

Jenrick said a total of around 4,000 trucks were stranded in Dover and overall in southern Kent county.

Between 700 and 800 were parked alongside the motorway heading out of London via Kent and some 3,000 were at the nearby disused airport of Manston where drivers are to be tested.

As night fell on Tuesday December 22, many drivers at Manston sounded their horns for more than half an hour in protest over the delays. Jenrick said testing would be carried out at Manston and “multiple other locations.”

If a driver tests positive following a rapid screening that normally produces results in 30 minutes, the driver will be given a more accurate swab test. In the event of two positive results the drivers will be placed in isolation in a hotel for 10 days.

French Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebarri confirmed that air travel, boats and Eurostar trains would resume service as of Wednesday December 23, saying “French nationals, people living in France and those with a legitimate reason will have to be carrying a negative test.”

But his British counterpart Grant Shapps urged lorry drivers not to head to Kent expecting to board a ferry or train, even though Dover said it would reopen from midnight local time (2300 GMT) for travellers with a negative Covid result.

A handful of passenger vehicles disembarked from two ferries in Calais early Wednesday, an AFP correspondent said, but port management said traffic was not expected to pick up until later.

Food shortage worries

The measures imposed on hauliers have caused concern over shortages of some fresh food products over a holiday period already dampened by strict coronavirus restrictions.

Despite the fresh agreement – which will be reviewed on December 31 – it was unclear when traffic will begin moving again.

The French transport ministry said in a statement that all travellers from Britain would be required to present a negative Covid-19 test to their airline, ship or railway company less than 72 hours before departure.

French nationals, EU nationals or French residents carrying out essential travel will be allowed to cross the Channel.

The European Union had called on members to facilitate transit and to lift other transport bans to avoid supply chain disruptions.

Johnson, criticised for his management of a pandemic that has caused nearly 68,000 deaths – one of the highest death tolls in Europe – has argued that the risk of transmission by lorry drivers was “really very low”.

In the wake of the chaos at Dover and in anticipation of more delays caused by Britian’s departure from the EU, the port’s chief executive has called for €36 million euros (£33 million) in funding for passport checks.

“Without this funding it’s going to make the transition more challenging than it is today,” Port of Dover chief executive Doug Bannister told the BBC. 

“We are trying to move ourselves through the greatest period of uncertainty that this facility has seen,” he added.

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BREXIT

French government clarifies post-Brexit rules on pets for second-home owners

Brexit hasn't just brought about changes in passport rules for humans, pets are also affected and now the French government has laid out the rules for pet passports for British second-home owners.

French government clarifies post-Brexit rules on pets for second-home owners

Pre-Brexit, people travelling between France and the UK could obtain an EU Pet Passport for their car, dog or ferret which ensured a hassle-free transport experience.

But since the UK left the EU things have become more complicated – and a lot more expensive – for UK residents wanting to travel to France with pets.

You can find a full breakdown of the new rules HERE, but the main difference for people living in the UK is that that they now need an Animal Health Certificate for travel.

Unlike the Pet Passport, a new ACH is required for each trip and vets charge around £100 (€118) for the certificate. So for people making multiple trips a year, especially those who have more than one pet, the charges can quickly mount up.

UK nationals who live in France can still benefit from the EU Pet Passport, but until now the situation for second-home owners has been a little unclear.

However the French Agriculture ministry has now published updated information on its website.

The rules state: “The veterinarian can only issue a French passport to an animal holding a UK/EU passport issued before January 1st, 2021, after verifying that the animal’s identification number has been registered in the Fichier national d’identification des carnivores domestiques (I-CAD).”

I-CAD is the national database that all residents of France must register their pets in – find full details HERE.

The ministry’s advice continues: “If not registered, the veterinarian may proceed to register the animal in I-CAD, if the animal’s stay in France is longer than 3 consecutive months, in accordance with Article 22 of the AM of August 1st, 2012 on the identification of domestic carnivores.”

So if you are staying in France for longer than 90 days (which usually requires a visa for humans) your pet can be registered and get a Pet Passport, but those staying less than three months at a time will have to continue to use the AHC.

The confusion had arisen for second-home owners because previously some vets had been happy to issue the Passport using proof of a French address, such as utility bills. The Ministry’s ruling, however, makes it clear that this is not allowed.

So here’s a full breakdown of the rules;

Living in France

If you are living in France full time your pet is entitled to an EU Pet Passport regardless of your nationality (which means your pet has more travel rights than you do. Although they probably still rely on you to drive the car/book the ferry tickets).

Your cat, dog or ferret must be fully up to date with their vaccinations and must be registered in the national pet database I-CAD (full details here).

Once issued, the EU Pet Passport is valid for the length of the animal’s life, although you must be sure to keep up with their rabies vaccinations. Vets in France usually charge between €50-€100 for a consultation and completing the Passport paperwork.

Living in the UK

If you are living in the UK and travelling to France (or the rest of the EU) you will need an Animal Health Certificate for your cat, dog or ferret.

The vaccination requirements are the same as for the EU Pet Passport, but an ACH is valid for only 10 days after issue for entry to the EU (and then for four months for onward travel within the EU).

So if you’re making multiple trips in a year you will need a new certificate each time.

UK vets charge around £100 (€118) for a certificate, although prices vary between practices. Veterinary associations in the UK are also warning of delays in issuing certificates as many people begin travelling again after the pandemic (often with new pets bought during lockdown), so you will need to book in advance. 

Second-home owners

Although previously some French vets had been happy to issue certificates with only proof of an address in France, the French government has now clarified the rules on this, requiring that pets be registered within the French domestic registry in order to get an EU Pet Passport.

This can only be done if the pet is staying in France for more than three months. The three months must be consecutive, not over the course of a year.

UK pets’ owners will normally require a visa if they want to stay in France for more than three months at a time (unless they have dual nationality with an EU country) – find full details on the rules for people HERE.

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