In these last few days before Christmas this would traditionally be a message of joy, happiness and hope. I’m sorry to say now that Kent, London and the South East have been placed in a new Tier 4 – lockdown in all but name, including severe Christmas restrictions, there is little joy to be had. We’re left with hope.
There is little point in me re-airing my objections to many of the measures introduced – the inequity of the ‘Wilkinsons Conundrum’ whereby big stores can sell everything including toys and gifts, whereas the often independent smaller shop selling just the gifts is forced to close as ‘non-essential’.
This measure alone makes little sense as it’s sure to increase the density of shoppers in the larger stores rather than maintain a lower density across a wider number. Those lucky enough to be in Tier 1 – Cornwall, the Isle of Wight and Herefordshire – are now in the inscrutable position of having the freedom to visit pubs and restaurants with all the interactions with strangers that entails but are restricted in having just Christmas Day with a maximum three family bubble.
For us, in Tier 4, no such possibility for Christmas exists, hospitality in all its forms remain shut and with it more businesses scarred. This is why I called for the House of Commons to be recalled to discuss these measures calmly and coolly before their introduction. This is the right constitutional thing to do. That ship looks to have sailed.
Another crisis literally on our doorstep is the decision by French authorities to suspend lorry crossings into France for a period, citing the new variant of the virus as the reason. This seems to me a bizarre reaction given that most lorries and their drivers are EU based and the fact that lorry drivers tend to stay close to or remain in their trucks throughout.
These European lorries have onward just-in-time logistics to fulfil, be it Brussels to Berlin or Paris to Athens, and so this will have a Europe-wide effect. The use of the UK as the land-bridge for Republic of Ireland products becomes seriously stalled too. Also there is the issue of these drivers possibly being deprived of their own family time for Christmas.
All this could be solved with a cheap (£5) Lateral Flow Test before departure. Perhaps this does prove that we have become too heavily reliant on the short straits crossing and are too much subject to the whim of French officials. We may need to look more closely at alternative North Sea ports in Belgium and Holland who’d be more than keen to increase their port operations. We face the possibility of delays across our road network, particularly the M20 and for Manston to be brought into use as a temporary lorry park. Common-sense, as ever, seems in short supply.
Let’s finish with hope. It has been a truly wretched 2020. We have the roll-out of the Covid vaccine; this will accelerate massively if the UK produced Oxford/AstraZeneca product gains full approval. The cheap and quick Lateral Flow Test, now available at Ramsgate Port as a regional resting site, offers a new opportunity to bear down on the virus locally. The dark days of winter will clear: let’s look to 2021 as a new start as an independent country with all things Brexit behind us.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and a significantly happier New Year. Keep well.