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Latest Issue: Autumn 2018

Calais blockade shows threat to UK trade

Yesterday's blockade of the Port of Calais by French fishermen showed how disruptions of cross-Channel traffic after Brexit could have a serious impact on the UK's trading relationships, says the Freight Transport Association (FTA), the organisation which represents the logistics industry.

With more than 10,000 vehicles passing across the Channel to Calais from the Port of Dover every day, any delays incurred at the point of departure will have a significant effect on the UK's supply chain, as well as an impact on traffic flows in the South East and further afield, according to Pauline Bastidon, head of European Policy at the FTA:"The Calais-Dover route is a vital one for the successful passage of trade between the UK and continental Europe, and any delays at the ports have a knock-on effect which affect the country's ability to continue trading effectively. From raw materials to food products, finished goods and even medicines, Calais is the gateway to Europe for many UK businesses and vice versa. Under current trading arrangements, trucks can roll onto and off ferries without delays, 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. A mere extra two minutes to process a lorry would cause queues of over 17 miles at Dover."

With 2.6 million vehicles passing through the Port of Dover every year, representing almost 20 per cent of the UK's total trade, FTA is concerned that post-Brexit border checks do not hold traffic at the port:"The speed and simplicity of the movement of vehicles through the portsof Dover, Calais and Dunkirk is something that cannot be taken for granted," continues Ms Bastidon. "Even the smallest of delays could have significant ramifications for traffic flows as well as the supply chain, and it is imperative that post-Brexit controls take place away from the borders to protect the current frictionless trading arrangements. The trading doorway for British firms needs to stay as wide open as possible."

In addition to trading delays for British businesses caused by the blockade of the port, FTA is also concerned of the impact that queues of waiting freight vehicles could have on traffic movements across the South East, and further afield: "The Operation Stack solution should only be used as a temporary fix for traffic delayed at the coast," continues Ms Bastidon, "and should not be a full-time answer to ease congestion in and around Dover. It is still unclear what capacity the government's proposed emergency parking area at Manston Airfield may have, despite being earmarked for use in the event of border problems & disruptions post-Brexit. A typical day's traffic through Dover would stretch from the coast to Stansted Airport via the M25 - could Manston cope with that level of traffic? Whether using Manston or Operation Stack, freight operators need to be certain that every effort is being made to keep delays to a minimum, and traffic will be able to move freely to and from the port of Dover, as well as across the South East and onto the rest of the UK's strategic road network. The logistics industry needs a reassurance that it will be able to continue to keep Britain trading after Brexit, whatever the stresses on the supply chain. British industry and consumers depend on it."