Calais disruption may just be a foretaste

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has warned that ongoing industrial action problems in Calais give some idea of how easily cross-Channel traffic could be disrupted after Brexit.

Citing the recent blockade of the Port of Calais by French fishermen, the FTA claims that the incident highlights how disruption to cross-Channel traffic could have a serious impact on the UK’s trading relationships.

The Association fears that, post-Brexit, those disruptions could also include customs checks — something that it believes could significantly slow the movement of traffic between the UK and France.

“Under current trading arrangements, trucks can roll onto and off ferries without delays,” the FTA’s Pauline Bastidon pointed out, “but even the shortest of stops, to undertake customs checks or declarations, could generate knock-on delays and disruptions and have a serious impact on traffic and trading relationships.”

Taking just two minutes to process a lorry would, the FTA has calculated, cause queues stretching for more than 17 miles out of Dover.

From raw materials to food products, finished goods and even medicines, Calais is the gateway to Europe for many UK businesses and vice versa, Ms Bastidon argued.

With 2.6 million vehicles passing through the Port of Dover every year (representing almost 20% of the UK’s total trade), the FTA wants post-Brexit controls to take place away from the borders.

That, it suggests, would help protect the current frictionless trading arrangements.

Moving away from disruptions at the ports, the Association also expressed concern over how queuing freight vehicles are dealt with.

Operation Stack (when lorries are parked on the M20) should only be used as a temporary fix for traffic delayed at the coast, Ms Bastidon concluded, and should not be a full-time answer to ease congestion in and around Dover.

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