Wednesday 19 June 2019

Irish shipping firms plan to bypass British ports with direct routes to Europe

Stock photo
Stock photo

James Crisp and Shona Murray

Irish shipping companies are making plans to bypass British ports after Brexit and travel direct to the continent to avoid new customs checks and possible tailbacks.

Irish hauliers, who use Britain as a staging post to travel to Europe, have brought forward new direct routes, despite promises by the British government that future trade will be frictionless, as it is now, and agreement on a Brexit transition period prolonging the status quo until the end of 2020.

Michel Barnier, the European Union's chief Brexit negotiator, has repeatedly warned that frictionless trade is impossible outside of the bloc's single market and customs union even if there is a UK-EU free trade agreement.

CLdN, a shipping company in Luxembourg, has introduced two "mega vessels" on new direct freight routes between Dublin and the ports of Zeebrugge, Belgium, and Rotterdam, in the Netherlands.

Irish Continental Group will boost weekly freight capacity from 120 to 1,155 lorries between Dublin and the French port of Cherbourg this summer.

Brittany ferries will this month start a service between Cork and Santander in Spain

"In anticipation of Brexit, the shipping community was looking for alternative solutions," CLdN told the 'Financial Times'. Freight between Ireland and the UK will continue to be busy even if the direct routes do lessen the traffic.

Meanwhile, the former chief British negotiator on Northern Ireland believes Brexit can be stopped and the Northern Irish Border could be the catalyst.

Jonathan Powell said it was impossible for UK Prime Minister Theresa May to fulfil all of her red lines regarding Brexit, which include leaving the customs union and single market. These are incompatible with Britain's legal obligation to the Good Friday Agreement which ensures there is no Border between Northern Ireland and the Irish State, and North-south co-operation is fully protected.

Mr Powell, who was also Downing Street chief of staff under British Prime Minister Tony Blair from 1997 to 2007, was speaking as the 20th anniversary agreement approaches.

He said: "There's every chance to stop Brexit, and I think it's the Northern Irish Border that will trip the whole thing over."

If Dublin and Brussels stick to their guns about insisting there are no hard borders after Brexit, and as a result refuse to sign off on a Withdrawal Treaty if the British won't stay in a customs union and single market, then Mrs May will be left with no option but to stay in the EU, he said. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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