France Slams Proposed EU Sea Trade Links Post-Brexit

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The government of France says that the proposal of the European Commission to exclude French ports from a re-routing of a strategic trade corridor between mainland Europe and Ireland post-Brexit is unacceptable

At the moment, much of the trade of Ireland with the continent goes through the United Kingdom in trucks. However, with less than eight months to go until the United Kingdom withdraws from the European Union, there is still little certainty regarding its future trade relations with the bloc, nor the nature of the border of the Irish Republic with the British province of Northern Ireland.

The new route was placed forward by the Commission. It would connect Ireland by sea with Belgian and Dutch ports including Rotterdam and Zeebrugge. French ports including Dunkirk and Calais, however, would be bypassed.

Elisabeth Borne, the Transport Minister of France, wrote a letter dated August 10 that was addressed to the transport commissioner of the European Union. The letter read: “France and Ireland maintain important trade channels, both overland via Britain and via direct maritime routes. The geographical proximity between Ireland and France creates an obvious connection to the single market.”

It added: “Surprisingly, the Commission proposal in no way takes this into account. This proposal, therefore, is not acceptable to France.”

On a Twitter post last Sunday, Borne said that “the maritime connection between Ireland and France is an obvious one.” She added that the plan “must be reviewed.” The ports in France heavily campaigned in favour of being included in the route and claimed that they are geographically closer to Ireland as compared to the Benelux ports.

A spokesperson from the Commission stated: “The Commission proposal is based on the current transport flows.”

He added: “It makes an adjustment to the corridor to ensure continuity of these traffic flows, which mainly go through certain core ports.”

Jobs, millions of dollars’ worth of port revenues and probably the funding of EU infrastructure will be placed at risk once the proposal is pushed through.

Borne stated that French ports had the significant resources to make sure that they could handle the possible increase in trade flows, indicating concerns of congestion in ports such as the busiest passenger port of France, Calais.