France FURY at 'SCANDALOUS' EU decision: French ports could lose billions in Brexit spoils
Xavier Bertrand, the president of the Haunts de France region, branded the EU decision to create new direct shipping routes from Ireland to Belgium and the Netherlands “scandalous”.
The senior politician, whose region includes the ports of Calais, Boulogne and Dunkirk, demanded the European Commission review the decision taken as part of its no deal Brexit planning.
French ports were excluded from plans adopted by the European Commission to create shipping routes from Ireland to the rest of the Continent while avoiding Britain – which could cost Paris billions of euros in EU grants.
The Commission, the EU’s powerful executive, decided to create a direct shipping route by connecting Dublin and Cork with the Port of Rotterdam in the Netherlands and the Belgian ports of Antwerp and Zeebrugge.
Mr Bertrand said: “This is a scandalous and unacceptable decision.”
“The risk of traffic jams if new customs checks are introduced after Brexit is the same for France, Belgium and the Netherlands,” he told the Daily Telegraph.
“Why discriminate against our ports?
“The European Commission should review this and the French government should react.”
The decision was undertaken as a part of Martin Selmayr, the German head of the EU’s civil service, effort to prepare the bloc for a no deal Brexit.
Speaking to MEPs in June, Mr Selmayr stressed the importance of no shipping links between Ireland the Northern Europe because Dublin would no longer be able to rely on British ports as a route to the Continent.
A document, briefed by Mr Selmayr to MEPs, said: “The proposal will design a new maritime route to link Ireland with the continental part of the North Sea-Mediterranean corridor.”
The new North Sea-Mediterranean route aims to redirect billions of euros worth of trade from the usual overlands route through Britain to Belgium and Netherlands.
This has put the French government under domestic pressure after seven French ports – Roscoff, Brest, Cherborug, Le Havre, Caen, Calais and Dunkirk – were considered but ultimately ruled out the plans.
Both Roscoff and Cherbourg are actually closer to Ireland than the Dutch and Belgian alternatives picked by the Commission.
In the EU’s draft budget for 2021-2027, there is a proposed €30.6 billion available for its Connecting Europe Facility – which is designed to assist with major infrastructure upgrades across the bloc.
This means France could lose out on billions of EU funding as the Dutch and Belgian ports can apply for funds to increase their capacity ahead of the new routes being opened.
The new Irish shipping routes are, however, a fallback measure in the event of a no deal Brexit, which the Commission said it is “working day and night” to avoid.