New shipping route will cut out Britain
A new post-Brexit shipping route will see Ireland connected to Europe via the Netherlands and Belgium under EU contingency plans.
The European Commission has adopted a proposal which will see Dublin and Cork ports connected with Zeebrugge and Antwerp in Belgium and Rotterdam in the Netherlands - but does not include French ports.
The realignment of the EU's strategic transport corridor, the North Sea-Mediterranean route, is part of Europe's 'Brexit preparedness' measures.
The route has been redrawn as part of efforts to allow Irish trade a means of circumventing UK customs checks post-Brexit and to find alternatives to the land-bridge over Britain.
Fine Gael MEP Brian Hayes said he suspects the proposal will be radically altered following further deliberation.
"If we're trying to get product to market, there has to be an equality between the French side and the Belgian/Dutch side in terms of port access because you could potentially damage some Irish exports - those exports using the French route into southern Spain - we have to mindful of that," he said.
Aidan Flynn of the Freight Transport Association welcomed the adoption of the proposal. "From our prospective, any strategic thinking towards future solutions and ease of accessibility would be very welcome," he said.
Ireland's biggest EU market is to the west of the continent and connectivity is thus very important, he said, adding that plans need to be put in place to combat the reliance on the UK's land-bridge in the event of a no-deal or hard Brexit.
A spokesman for the European Commission said it "based its choice of ports on existing transport flows" following an analysis.
"According to this, there are regular services from Dublin and Cork to Rotterdam and Antwerp. Moreover, there are regular services between Dublin and Zeebrugge. There are no such regular service to France's core ports, Calais and Dunkirk," he said.
A main direct link to France could also be established post-Brexit. A public consultation on the proposal will continue until September 26.