express– Leading nations across Europe and other parts of the globe have shut their doors to Britain after the emergence of a new mutant Covid strain. The Prime Minister will hold an emergency meeting later today and has been warned of “significant disruption” around the Channel ports in Kent – with freight from Europe via France being blocked.
Severe travel restrictions have also been imposed on Britons from a number of European destinations, including Germany, The Netherlands and Ireland.
The shock news has unsettled investors and sparked panic with traders around the world – including on the London Stock Exchange.
As of 8am this morning, the pound was down 1.8 percent against the US dollar and had fallen 1.3 percent versus the euro.
Sterling was being exchanged at £1-$1.3277 compared to £1-$1.3510 at the previous close.
Meanwhile, against Europe’s single currency, Sterling was trading at 0.9171 pounds compared to 0.9057 pounds at the previous close.
The FTSE 100 index opened at 8am this morning and £33bn was instantly wiped off the value of shares.
The London Stock Exchange opened at 6529.18 – down 2.1 percent.
Experts say uncertainty over the new strain of the virus and its effect on firms has been further compounded by fears of a no deal Brexit.
The UK and the EU are yet to agree a trade deal with just 10 days’ to go until the official December 31 deadline.
The plunge was the lowest the FTSE 100 has fallen since December 2.
BP and Royal Dutch Shell suffered some of the biggest losses on the index with stocks falling by almost five percent each amid fears over future fuel demand.
The travel ban has also piled more misery onto the airline industry which was already reeling from the pandemic.
British Airways-owner IAG, Wizz Air Holdings and easyJet fell between 11 percent and 16 percent.
Rodrigo Catril, National Australia Bank’s senior currency strategist in Sydney, said: “The lockdown news and the stalemate on Brexit is keeping the market nervous.
“Dollar strength is largely being driven by the move lower in the pound.”
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has tried to reassure firms by pointing out the vast majority of imports and exports are tunnelled away from Kent and the Dover to Calais route.
Mr Shapps explained the disruption would also not affect the delivery of coronavirus vaccines to the UK and insisted “for the most part” there would not be supermarket food shortages.
But, the Department for Transport has urged hauliers to stay away from the Kent area with Manston Airport being used to ease congestion for lorries.
Speaking on Sky News, Mr Shapps said: “Immediately as soon as the French said, perhaps slightly surprisingly that they would stop hauliers, rather than just passengers, we were in touch with a group known as the Kent Resilience Forum. They are well used to planning for exactly these kind of circumstances
“We will be opening up Manston as a lorry park today and providing welfare for some of those drivers as well, while also being in very close contact with the French over what will happen next.
“The Kent Dover-to-Calais Eurotunnel, what we call the short straits, is probably about 20 percent of goods going to and from, in and out of the country.
“But it’s not the mainstay. Most goods actually come in and out by unaccompanied containers and those will continue to flow.”