The European Commission’s proposal to exclude French ports from a re-routing of a strategic trade corridor between Ireland and mainland Europe after Brexit is unacceptable, according to the French government.
At stake are jobs, millions of dollars’ worth of port revenues and possibly EU infrastructure funding.
Currently, a large chunk of Ireland’s trade with Europe goes via Britain in trucks. But with Brexit looming (less than eight months away), it is uncertain whether this will continue.
As reported by the Reuters news agency, there is little clarity on its future trade relations with the bloc and about the nature of the Irish Republic’s border with the British province of Northern Ireland.
The Commission proposed a new route that would connect Ireland by sea with Dutch and Belgian ports including Zeebrugge and Rotterdam. However, French ports such as Calais and Dunkirk would be bypassed.
“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,” French Transport Minister Elisabeth Borne wrote to the EU’s transport commissioner in a letter dated August 10.
“Surprisingly, the Commission proposal in no way takes this into account. This proposal therefore is not acceptable to France,” added Borne. He said French ports had the necessary resources to ensure they could handle the likely increase in trade flows, hinting at concerns of congestion in ports such as Calais, France’s busiest passenger port.