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Brexit: New ferry freight route opens between France and Ireland

The Independent logo The Independent 29/11/2020 Alessio Perrone
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A new freight ferry route linking Ireland and France will open after the end of the Brexit transition period, offering “direct and paperless transport between EU countries”.

DFDS, a Danish international shipping and logistics company, said Friday that it would start operating sailings on the route between Dunkirk and Rosslare on 2 January 2021.

The company said that the move is expected to reduce companies’ dependence on the UK land bridge and create new trade opportunities within the EU’s single market.

It would allow companies in the EU and Ireland to “transport their goods directly […] without the customs formalities and possible waiting times that the end of the Brexit transition period will bring about for road haulage passing through the UK,” said Peder Gellert, the company’s executive vice-president and head of the ferry division.

The route will link Ireland with some of its top export countries, which include Belgium, Germany, the Netherlands and France.

DFDS said that it will initially service the route with three ferries, each with a capacity for up to 125 lorries.

The crossing will take 24 hours, with six departures per week from each port, in the afternoon or evening.

The route will not initially be available for passengers.

Ferries will make individual cabins available to drivers, allowing them to rest during the crossing and resume driving after disembarking without exceeding their legal driving limit. The company says the cabins will be Covid-19-safe.

“We are confident that this service will benefit customers on both sides of the route,” said Kell Robdrup, Senior Vice-president and Head of DFDS’s North Sea freight services.

The announcement circulated on social media, together with the map that showed how the new ferry route will sidestep Britain after Brexit.

“I raised this possibility with one of the most senior UK diplomats in November 2017 whilst I was on the Brexit Select Committee,” Hywel Williams, the Plaid Cymru MP for Arfon, north-west Wales, said upon sharing the map on Twitter.

“He had ‘not really considered the matter’. By now is anyone at all surprised (even Brexit voters on Ynys Môn)?” he said. Ynys Môn is the Welsh for Anglesey.

Others appeared to indicate that the map served as a visual metaphor for Brexit.

“Europe reconfigures itself,” commented historian and writer Anne Applebaum, a contributor to the American monthly magazine The Atlantic.

“Alexa: sum up the British economy in 2021 in one tweet,” joked Martin O’Neill, a Senior Lecturer in Political Philosophy at the University of York.

The news comes as Brexit negotiators were due to resume face-to-face talks in London today after one of the EU negotiators had tested positive to Covid-19, causing a week-long pause.

Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, tweeted on Friday that the “same significant divergences” persisted between the UK and EU.

But he told reporters upon arriving in London that he remained patient and determined to reach an agreement before the end of the transition period in a little more than a month.

Talks have made little progress in the last few months as the two parties remained at loggerheads over fishing rights, governance structures and the “level playing field” conditions to prevent unfair competition by cutting standards or increasing state subsidies.

The UK chief negotiator, Lord David Frost, said that a deal will still possible and he will continue to talk with his EU counterparts “until it's clear that it isn't”.

“But for a deal to be possible, it must fully respect UK sovereignty. That is not just a word - it has practical consequences,” he said on Friday. “That includes: controlling our borders; deciding ourselves on a robust and principled subsidy control system; and controlling our fishing waters.”

Irish broadcaster RTE reported that Mr Barnier told Britain some weeks ago that the EU could accept 15-18 percent cut in its share of fishing rights in UK waters, but British officials are said to have immediately rejected the offer.

Additional reporting by PA

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