French ferry workers strike

Hauliers could face 30-mile tailbacks to ports on both sides of the Channel if the final Brexit deal involves mandatory customs and sanitary checks at the French ferry terminal, according to Port of Calais chief Jean-Marc Puissesseau.

The warning was made at a private meeting at the European Parliament earlier this month, which was also attended by Xavier Bertrand, president of the Hauts-de-France political region. Bertrand said border delays could be 10 times worse at the Channel ports than at the Irish border if Brexit results in the creation of a hard border.

Speaking to MEPs attending the meeting, Puissesseau, who is president of the chamber of commerce that runs the port, warned of significant delays in the event of a hard Brexit.

“At the moment, 70% of food imported comes from the EU. Even if that goes down to 50% after Brexit because of controls, it still needs to flow smoothly,” he said. “If there are delays, it could end up rotting on the side of the road.”

He questioned whether the Brexit negotiators on both sides take into account the important position of Dover and Calais ports, pointing out that since the Channel ports process between 250 and 300 trucks an hour at peak, any delays could mean 15-mile tailbacks building up over 10 hours.

He warned that Calais could see similar delays to those in July 2015, when HGV drivers were forced to queue in searing heat for three days in 30-mile queues from Calais to Dunkirk, 25 miles inland to St Omer and 20 miles West to Boulogne. “I am worried about the slowdown of traffic if there are controls,” he added.

Read more

Bertrand said: “I know Ireland is going to be a real problem, but please remember the economic issues in Ireland are 10 times smaller than what is going to happen here.

“This is a black scenario, but it is going to get darker and darker,” he warned, adding that it was unacceptable that businesses are expected to “sit on their hands waiting very anxiously for something to happen”.

Patrick Boone, DHL head of road network in Europe, attended the meeting and said that the company is considering switching freight from road to rail on a train route running from Maidstone to Lille, in the event of border hold-ups.

It came as the RHA warned that the problem of migrants attempting to break into UK-bound trucks is spreading well beyond the Calais region.

The RHA pointed to a recent report of two migrants attempting to illegally enter the UK by breaking into a lorry three hours from Calais, while the driver took a break at Reims. The migrants were found at the Channel ports by customs officers.

The RHA said the incident follows reports of migrants attempting to board trucks along the coast at Caen.

RHA chief executive Richard Burnett said: “Lorry drivers are fearful every time they cross the Channel, and we advise them not to stop within 150 miles of Calais. It is clear this problem is no longer confined to port areas.”

Image: PA Images