Wales bypassed as Irish-French sea connections reach 44 with Dunkirk terminal
Wales is being increasingly bypassed as Irish-French sea connections reach 44 with a new terminal in the ferry port of Dunkirk.
Yesterday Ireland’s Minister for European Affairs Thomas Byrne inaugurated the Irish terminal at the French port as part of a post Brexit move to avoid the UK land bridge through Holyhead.
Ireland-France sea routes have risen from 12 before the UK left the European Union, to 44 now as exporters increasingly side step the UK since 1 January when Brexit took effect.
Plaid Cymru MP Hywel Williams has criticised the UK Government for its handling of Brexit, saying that the “Welsh economy is bearing the brunt of Westminster’s decisions”.
He said Wales is being “relegated to the sidelines”, and that “we are seeing the consequences of Tory neglect”.
Williams argued that it is “only through independence that we can rebuild our links with European partners”.
The UK land bridge through Holyhead is now associated with delays and customs formalities and the importance of Dunkirk has become the latest outworking of Brexit and reflects the growing need for direct sea routes from Ireland to the continent.
The Dunkirk-Rosslare sea route is being operated by the Danish shipping line DFDS. It now has three boats operating five round trips per week.
Torben Carlsen, the firm’s chief executive said the move was a “response to Brexit”.
Hywel Williams said: “The Tory Brexit Minister David Frost is in Lisbon today escalating his bonkers Brexit distraction tactics. Back in reality, the Welsh economy is bearing the brunt of Westminster’s decisions.
“Ireland’s direct routes to France are up four-fold while Wales is relegated to the sidelines. We are increasingly bypassed by European trade routes, with trade via the land bridge down 29 per cent over the past year.
“I raised the impact of Brexit on the number of direct routes from Ireland to the continent back in 2017. The UK Government ‘had not thought about it’ back then. Now we are seeing the consequences of Tory neglect on the Port of Holyhead and on Fishguard.
“Clearly, it is only through independence that we can rebuild our links with European partners – in Ireland and beyond.”
‘Response to Brexit’
Torben Carlsen, the chief executive of DFDS, told RTÉ News: “This was something that is in response to Brexit.
“It was clear, also to our Irish partners, that Irish exporters would be seriously suffering, potentially due to the difficulties of paperwork and delays. Lately also the [suffering from the] driver shortage you can see in the UK.
“So there was a demand for a direct link between Ireland and the EU, most specifically France, and we responded to that need.”
Ireland’s Minister for European Affairs, Thomas Byrne said: “I am delighted to visit the Port of Dunkirk for the inauguration of the Irish Terminal. France is a key gateway for Irish companies moving goods to and from the EU and beyond.
“The service that DFDS is running between Rosslare and Dunkirk is of key strategic importance for trade between Ireland and France, and the wider EU.
“In the last 12 months, we have seen ferry companies double the capacity available on direct roll-on / roll-off services between Ireland and our EU partners.
“Having this capacity in place on direct routes to our key markets is vitally important for the Irish economy and sustaining and developing the business and people-to-people links that tie us together.
“Since the UK left the EU, France has become Ireland’s closest EU neighbour. We are now cooperating more closely than ever before across France. Dunkirk and the Hauts-de-France region offers great potential.
“The Government is committed, through our very ambitious Joint Plan of Action with France, to provide support for Irish companies enhancing their presence in this key market.”