Normandy chief warns of Brexit impact on ports

The head of France's Normandy region has warned of the impact Brexit could have on its ports, which rely heavily on cross-Channel trade, saying they are not fully prepared for new customs checks.

Normandy chief warns of Brexit impact on ports
The refinery at the harbour of Port-Jerome-sur-Seine in Normandy. Photo: AFP
Normandy council president Herve Morin said 40 percent of heavy goods vehicles arriving at the ports will be subject to veterinary and plant health controls after the end of planned Brexit transition period in 2020. 
Morin said he was worried about the consequences that such controls could have on the flow of trucks going to and from Britain by ferry across the Channel.
Each year, 100,000 trucks go through Caen, 50,000 through Cherbourg, 30,000 through Le Havre and 10,000 through Dieppe.
“Our major concern is on the degree of preparation,” Morin said in London, during a two-day visit to Britain. “It is probably not enough with regards to animal health controls. The customs posts are much better prepared.”

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Britain's European Union withdrawal agreement — set to be sealed at a summit in Brussels on Sunday — should enable a transition period from Brexit day on March 29, 2019 until the end of 2020.
The transition should allow businesses and the authorities time to adjust to new arrangements between Britain and the EU.
Morin said he was not entirely reassured by the transition period.
“It gives us a year and a half more, but a year and a half is very short. There will have to be a big adaptation push,” he said.
The implementation of a transition period depends on British lawmakers ratifying the withdrawal agreement — something which many observers say at this stage seems unlikely.
“We must not hide from it: in case of a hard Brexit, on March 30 we are in for a very difficult time,” Morin told AFP.
Morin said he was also worried about the cost of reconfiguring the ports and installing new checkpoints, which will be “in the tens of millions of euros”.
On fishing, he called for an agreement to be struck “quickly”.
The issue of European access to British waters is still being hotly debated between London and Brussels.
“Given the sensitivity of the subject, it's good that soon we can find the terms of an agreement to prevent the recurrence of incidents between the British and French fishing fleets,” he said, referring to the scallop wars earlier this year that saw clashes between rival trawlers.

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France may cut Channel islands ferry service after post-Brexit collapse in visitor numbers

Visits to the Channel islands from France have halved since Brexit, and French local authorities say they may be forced to cut the regular ferry service, asking for the passport requirement to be waived for French visitors.

France may cut Channel islands ferry service after post-Brexit collapse in visitor numbers

Travel to and from the Channel islands – which are British crown dependancies – has reduced significantly since Brexit, when passports became a requirement for those travelling in and out of the islands and their ports.

Now the president of the local authorities in the Manche département of France has asked that passport requirements be lifted, with hopes of increasing travel to and from the islands.

Jean Morin told Ouest France that there has been a “considerable reduction in the number of passengers on routes between the Channel ports and the islands” and as a result the ferry service between France and the islands was seriously in deficit.

“On these lines, we will never make money, but we cannot be in deficit”, explained the Morin. 

He added that if a solution is not found by the deadline of May 1st, 2023, then local authorities will stop funding the shipping company DNO, which runs the Manche Îles Express ferry service.

“If the passport requirement is not lifted by then, we will have no choice but not to renew the service contract for 2024-2025”, Morin told Ouest France.

Only around half of French people have a passport, since the ID card issued to all adults is sufficient to travel within the EU. 

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DNO re-launched operations in April and since then, the company, and by extension the département – who plays a large role in funding it via a public service delegation – has been losing significant funds.

According to Franceinfo, the number of passengers has been cut in half since passport requirements were introduced. Franceinfo estimates that for one ticket for one passenger costing €30, the département spends €200.

According to Morin, the ideal solution would be to require a simple ID for tourists seeking to take just day-long or weekend-long stays on the islands – which reportedly represents at least 90 percent of the boats’ usual passengers.

“The Jersey government is working hard on the issue and is waiting for an agreement from London and the European Union. There is the possibility that things could move quickly”, Morin told Franceinfo on Tuesday.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, boats going to and from the French mainland carried at least 110,000 people per year. In 2022, only 40,000 passengers made the journey, Olivier Normand, the sales manager of Manche Îles Express, told Actu France.

Normand had expected the decline, however. He told Actu France that the company had taken a survey, which found that almost half (between 40 and 50 percent) of their clientele did not have a passport.