People hoping to cross the Channel to France this weekend are being warned it will be very busy again, after three days of queues and delays.

And that pattern could continue with drivers warned by the AA they could face a summer of repeat delays.

Vehicles are flowing freely on Monday after a weekend that saw miles of tailbacks build up in Kent.

Kent Resilience Forum’s Toby Howe said it was a “very vulnerable situation” and took little to cause congestion.

Queues of lorries have begun to build at Dover, although the port said traffic was flowing normally.

Despite the improved traffic flow a critical incident declared over the weekend has remained in force.

Ferry operator DFDS told passengers there were “queues of around an hour” for French border checks, while P&O Ferries said queues had picked up.

Over the weekend traffic built up on the roads leading to the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone and Port of Dover after the M20 motorway through Kent to the south coast was closed to cars from Maidstone to Folkestone because of Operation Brock, which sees lorries diverted to park on the motorway.

With the motorway shut, car drivers were diverted to smaller roads which then got jammed with miles of tailbacks.

Some people reported sleeping overnight in their cars, while one tired family said the last three miles of their journey took 21 hours.

He said on Friday the Port of Dover had issues with a lack of resources, which was compounded by a crash on the motorway.

“You only need another crash on the road or maybe a train breakdown or a power failure somewhere for it to then become a big problem.

Mr Howe said there needed to be more infrastructure in place to take traffic off the roads, such as lorry parks.

“We shouldn’t really have to have queues of traffic due to all of this, so we need more infrastructure in place,” he said.

The AA’s head of roads policy Jack Cousens said it had been an “incredible weekend of traffic jams” but warned the group was concerned “we could be in for a repeat of this congestion across the summer”.

John Keefe, director of public affairs for Getlink – which operates the Eurotunnel between Folkestone and Calais, said the issue over the weekend had been caused by the expected “very heavy traffic of passengers” getting away on holidays alongside an unexpected amount of truck traffic, which would normally have crossed to France earlier but had been delayed by an accident on the motorway.

He said there were several factors that could help ease the situation, including bringing in digital technology to speed up border checks, increasing the resilience of the road network – with two of the UK’s biggest ports served by the same motorway – and improving the Channel tunnel railway network.

Mr Keefe added: “There are definitely solutions. These solutions are not new. They’ve been on the table for many, many years.

Taiwan’s capital staged air raid drills Monday and its military mobilized for routine defense exercises, coinciding with concerns over a forceful Chinese response to a possible visit to the island by U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.

While there was no direct link between China’s renewed threats and Taiwan’s defensive moves, they underscore the possibility of a renewed crisis in the Taiwan Strait, considered a potential hotspot for conflict that could envelop the entire region.

Air raid sirens were sounded in the capital Taipei and the military was holding its annual multi-day Han Kuang drills, including joint air and sea exercises and the mobilization of tanks and troops.

In Taipei, police directed randomly selected subway commuters to shelters when a siren went off shortly after lunchtime. Most departed after about 15 minutes.

Pelosi has not confirmed when, or even if, she will visit, but President Joe Biden last week told reporters that U.S. military officials believed such a trip was “not a good idea.” Administration officials are believed to be critical of a possible trip, both for the problematic timing and the lack of coordination with the White House.

China’s authoritarian ruling Communist Party considers democratic, self-ruling Taiwan its own territory, to be annexed by force if necessary, and regularly advertises that threat by staging military exercises and flying warplanes into Taiwan’s air defense identification zone or across the center line of the 180-kilometer (100-mile) -wide Taiwan Strait.

Beijing says those actions are aimed at deterring advocates of the island’s formal independence and foreign allies—principally the U.S.—from interfering, more than 70 years after the sides split amid civil war. Surveys routinely show that Taiwan’s 23 million people reject China’s assertions that the island is a Chinese province that has strayed and must be brought under Beijing’s control.

Pelosi, long a sharp critic of Beijing, is second in line to the White House. She is viewed as a Biden proxy by China, which demands members of Congress follow the commitments made by previous administrations.

Taiwan is among the few issues that enjoys broad bipartisan support among lawmakers and within the administration, with Biden stating earlier this year that the U.S. would defend Taiwan if it came under attack.

U.S. law requires Washington provide Taiwan with the means to defend itself and treat all threats to the island as matters of “grave concern,” but remains ambiguous on whether it would commit forces in response to an attack from China.

 

Though the sides lack formal diplomatic ties, the U.S. is Taiwan’s chief provider of outside defense assistance and political support, in a reflection of its desire to limit China’s growing influence and maintain a robust American presence in the Western Pacific.

During a visit to Indonesia on Sunday, U.S. Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said the Chinese military has become significantly more aggressive and dangerous over the past five years.

Milley’s Chinese counterpart, Gen. Li Zuocheng, told him in a call earlier this month that Beijing had “no room for compromise” on issues such as Taiwan.

China’s Foreign Ministry said Tuesday it will take “resolute and strong measures,” but has not specified actions it would take in response to a visit to Taiwan by Pelosi, who would be the highest-ranking elected official to visit Taiwan since 1997. Speculation has centered on a new round of threatening military exercises or even an attempt to prevent Pelosi’s plane from landing by declaring a no-fly zone over Taiwan.

German business confidence has dropped to its lowest level since the early months of the pandemic amid fears a cut-off in Russian gas supplies could push Europe’s largest economy into a downturn.

The Ifo Institute’s gauge of expectations fell to 80.3 in July from 85.8 in June – a much deeper decline than forecast. An index of current conditions also dropped.

Clemens Fuest, Ifo President, said: “Germany is on the brink of a recession. High energy prices and the threat of gas shortages are weighing on the economy. Companies are expecting significantly worse business activity in the coming months.”

The report reflects mounting gloom in Germany, which is also grappling with rampant inflation and supply chain troubles exacerbated by the war in Ukraine.

A gauge of private-sector activity by S&P Global last week showed the economy began contracting in July for the first time this year.

Factory orders weaken – but cost pressure ease

UK manufacturers have reported a weakening of demand over the last three months. On the plus side, though, they said inflation is showing signs of peaking.

The latest survey of the sector by the CBI showed order books growing at their slowest pace in 15 months. An index of output expectations fell to the lowest since January 2021.

Businesses are still deeply pessimistic as fears about a global recession mounted.

However, the pressure from soaring raw material prices appears to be easing, with average costs per unit of output rising less quickly than in the quarter to April.

Ukraine downgraded by Fitch as it begins ‘default-like’ process

Ukraine has been downgraded by Fitch Ratings after the country began the formal process to defer payments on its external bonds and restructure $22.8bn (£18.9bn) in sovereign debt.

The country’s credit score was lowered to C from CCC by Fitch, which said the Government’s request to postpone foreign-debt payments constitutes a “default-like process.”

The rating would be lowered again to RD if the proposal is accepted by creditors – a move that the firm said is likely.

The rating company said: “Even if not accepted, Fitch considers that the risk of missed payments or initiation of an alternative distressed-debt exchange process is high as the Government seeks to preserve liquidity in the face of acute military spending pressure.”

Kyiv filed a formal request last week asking bondholders to agree to a two-year payment freeze and changes to coupons on its so-called GDP warrants by the middle of next month.

The Finance Ministry said it “received explicit indications of support” for the plan from a select group of its biggest debt holders, including BlackRock and Fidelity International.

Beyond a payment delay, Fitch said a broader restructuring of the Government’s commercial debt will also be required, though timing remains uncertain.

The firm expects the war to continue well into next year, leading the economy to contract 33pc this year – a hit that will have long-term effects as the government estimates at least $750bn in reconstruction costs over the next decade.

“If the U.S. is determined to make (a visit) happen, they know China will take unprecedented tough measures and the U.S. must make military preparations,” said Shi Yinhong, an international relations expert at Beijing’s Renmin University.

“Expect huffing and puffing, maybe some fire-breathing, military posturing, and perhaps economic punishment of Taiwan,” said Michael Mazza, a defense and China expert at the American Enterprise Institute.

The timing of a Pelosi visit, which could happen sometime in early August, is especially sensitive, hinging on multiple factors. Among them is the anniversary of the founding of the People’s Liberation Army—the military branch of the ruling Communist Party—which falls on Aug. 1, a date used to stoke nationalism and rally the troops.

Chinese leaders are also under pressure from hardline nationalist forces within the party ranks.

That harkens back to the Taiwan Strait crisis of 1995 and 1996, when China held exercises and launched missiles into waters north and south of the island in response to a U.S. visit by the island’s then-president Lee Teng-hui. The U.S. responded by dispatching two aircraft carrier battle groups to the area, a move that helped spur China’s massive military upgrading in the years since that has radically changed the balance of power in Asia.

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