The French closing their border with the UK at 11pm on Sunday 20th December has caused chaos in the South of England, this has been widely reported. I live locally and witnessed events unfolding, the scale of the problem was overwhelming. There were thousands of people stranded away from home for the Christmas period, many without food, all without proper sanitation.
There’s a lot of public and media conjecture about Emmanuel Macron’s motives for the closure, with the main themes being it was either genuninely for COVID security as was the official line, or it was to force the UK into a weakened position in the run up to the final Brexit negotiations and increase the chances of the UK receiving a bad deal. I won’t dwell upon which I think it was, but the resulting fallout for thousands of drivers has been hideous and as I type this, continues to be, albeit with reduced numbers.
Often, these drivers are low-paid workers that travel hundreds of miles away from their families, and they are critical to maintaining the UK. Without them there would be shortages of food and goods. Now, you can get embroiled in a finger pointing blame game regarding how they were put in the position of not being able to get themselves home for the Christmas period, but that will solve nothing. These men and women have found themselves in a position not of their doing, and I’d consider, irrespective of blame, we owe them a duty of care as human beings. I never ever considered that the UK Government on a central and local level could be so incompetent and uncaring.
Thanet District Council (TDC) announced on Christmas Eve that they thanked people for their offers of support, but requested that people didn’t get involved, and instead contacted local charities and stay at home. I’m glad that people ignored this message, as dusk arrived on Christmas Eve, I witnessed people distributing food to the drivers and they appeared full of gratitude. There were young families walking along the lines of parked trucks throughout Kent distributing, there were people climbing the Manston perimiter fence and passing food and drink over. There was clearly a very large demand for this. At this point, there was nothing new about this crisis, it had been rolling on for four days at this point.
This was a fantastic opportunity for TDC to co-ordinate the volunteers, but they chose to dissuade people from helping. They also failed to make an official comment on the situation at Manston. Considering this, maybe they should have just not said anything instead?