Response to agreement to reopen French border

Call to prioritise perishable goods hauliers.

Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has called for drivers moving goods such as seafood and salmon to be prioritised as an agreement is reached to allow hauliers into France.

Speaking after a discussion with the UK Transport Secretary, Mr Matheson, said:

“This has been an extremely worrying time for a number of our sectors who are heavily dependent on the Channel ports, especially at this time of year. It has provided an alarming insight into the likely disruption a No Deal Brexit or any additional trade barriers will bring, and I would again stress the need to extend the transition period while the country gets to grips with coronavirus (Covid-19).

“I spoke with the UK Transport Secretary earlier tonight and am pleased that he reported that significant progress had been made regarding arrangements to reopen the closure of the French border to UK freight and that the UK Government has agreed that a Lateral Flow Test - of similar quality to that being used by the NHS - will permit drivers and other essential travellers to travel to France within 72 hours of a clear test. Arrangements will be in place until 6 January, with a mutual review agreed for 31 December.

“The UK Government has informed us that they have a plan to deploy Lateral Flow Tests to drivers at locations in Kent where drivers are parked, and UK Ministers must now urgently prioritise those drivers with perishable goods, such as Scottish seafood and salmon. 

“Now we have clarity on the type of test required, the Scottish Government will work with the haulage industry and the NHS to explore how we can support drivers to take those tests in Scotland in the future, before beginning their journey. 

“To reiterate, Scotland is currently well stocked with food and medical supplies. We remain in close communication with the NHS and with food retailers and there is no issue that causes concern for the immediate few days ahead.  What has always been of concern is the impact on exporters, not least of perishable goods such as seafood. This is their most critical time of year and right now, and the dismay caused by the uncertainty and length of delay has been avoidable and regrettable.  

“I have again raised the question of financial support for those hit by this action with the UK Government. We stand ready to help in any practical way we can as this situation develops and will keep all actions under active review.”

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