UK and France working to lift border closure, British minister says

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LONDON (Reuters) – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government is working with France in an attempt to find a way to lift border closures that have snarled one of Europe’s most important trade routes just days before the Brexit cliff edge.

Much of the world closed borders to the United Kingdom over recent days after London identified a highly infectious new coronavirus strain, leaving hundreds of truck drivers stranded in southern England.

France shut its border to arrivals of people and trucks from Britain. The BBC cited French Europe Minister Clément Beaune as saying that Britain and France would announce a deal to restart freight by Wednesday.

“We speak to our colleagues in France constantly on a range of issues and that work has been underway over the last 24 hours and we’ll continue today,” Home Secretary Priti Patel told Sky.

Asked if there would be a resolution today, Patel said: “We’re working to get a resolution. It’s in both our interests to ensure that we have flow.”

“We’ll see what materialises today,” Patel said.

The discovery of the new strain, just months before vaccines are expected to be widely available, sowed new panic in a pandemic that has killed about 1.7 million people worldwide and more than 67,000 in Britain.

With the United Kingdom in effective COVID quarantine just 9 days before it is due to exit informal EU membership, one of the biggest changes in post-World War Two British history, some shoppers stripped shelves in supermarkets.

As financial markets tumbled, stranded truck drivers near the port of Dover said they just wanted to get back home in time for Christmas.

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