New direct ferry links to EU essential as no trade deal looms

24 September 2020
  • Government supports for direct links to Europe needed and new providers must be secured.
  • State Connectivity fund of €240m must be used to reduce dependency on landbridge.
  • Rosslare and Cork can rebalance links and address strategic weaknesses.

With transport chaos likely in the UK in a no trade deal scenario, Labour Brexit spokesperson Brendan Howlin said in the Dáil that we must prepare by putting in place new direct ferry links to continental Europe by providing State support through the Connectivity Fund.

Deputy Howlin said

“Our ongoing ability to export and import to continental Europe after January 1st is deeply concerning and the Connectivity Fund must be used to secure new ferry links to the EU. I am calling on the Government to act now, and engage with ferry companies to have enough capacity in place.

“The final acts of madness from the Boris Johnson government on the Withdrawal agreement and efforts to negotiate a trade deal beggars belief. 

“We can’t take the word of the British government seriously anymore so we must prepare for a no deal scenario. Their focus on potential checks into Northern Ireland is in stark contrast to the checks they will seek to put in place for Kent. The leaked Gove letter acknowledges that there will be monumental disruption to transport links into Europe in the UK.

“I’ve had significant discussions with the Department of transport, and potential ferry providers but I am concerned that not enough is being done now to put in place enough extra capacity. We have a Connectivity fund with €240m in place ready to be invested that should be used to develop new services.

“The Irish Road Haulage Association want a fast-direct transport route to the EU and they are right. The landbridge through the UK is a hugely important link and 150,000 trucks use it to transport to EU. It is enormously important as an entry and exit point and carries 40% of Irish exports – but it may not be available after January 1st.

“That is why we need to provide new direct links. We are too dependent on the landbridge, and also on Dublin Port where there was rationing of access this week.

“Rosslare Europort is the obvious choice to locate and support new services, as it has good road links, and we must engage with providers to expand options and competition on the route to Europe. We should look at investing or supporting new routes and providers to mitigate the risk through more direct links. Cork is another option.

“We must sign up and support new ferries, and work with existing providers to ensure there is enough capacity and I will continue to seek government action on this. It is one of the most important strategic weaknesses for our country.”

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