Britain will look to head off French threats of disruption to cross-Channel trade by finding alternative routes to and from the continent.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss said the UK was looking to diversify its trade with the EU by prioritising other ports for UK-EU goods movements.
Truss told Sky News’ Kay Burley that Britain was exploring other options after a UK fishing vessel was impounded in the port of Le Havre.
“We’re looking at other ports in Holland in the Netherlands and Belgium to try and open up trade routes,” she said.
She added that the government would take “direct action in trade” if the French didn’t back down in the current dispute over fishing licences.
The government has previously signalled that it wanted to decrease the UK’s reliance on the short route from Dover to Calais, spreading the load across east coast ports.
Dover is currently a vital port for ‘roll on, roll off’ (or ‘Ro-Ro’) traffic in particular, handling ferries carrying 10,000 trucks on a busy day.
‘Ro-Ro’ ferries allow for wheeled cargo carriers – such as trucks and vans – to drive on and off seamlessly and are vital for the quick transportation of perishable goods, including many food items.
One UK port being considered as an alternative to Dover is the Port of Immingham on the Humber estuary, which is the UK’s largest port by tonnage, handling around 46 million tons of cargo a year.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps will be looking at the Port of Immingham as part of a “risk reduction” strategy aimed at channelling more trade through Dutch, Belgian and Scandinavian ports, reports Politico.
Immingham is also part of the Humber Freeport that was given the go ahead by the government in last week’s budget, reports the Business Desk.
Macron backs down
The temperature over the fishing dispute has dropped somewhat after France “retreated from threats to clog up exports and ban UK fishers from landing catches on its coast”, reports the Guardian.
According to Politico, president Macron told reporters at Glasgow’s Cop26 conference that discussions had resumed after a proposal he made to PM Boris Johnson.
“The talks need to continue,” he added.
Brexit minister Lord Frost is to meet Clément Beaune, the French minister for European affairs, in Paris on Thursday, to renew talks on the row over fishing licences.
Jersey yesterday issued another 49 temporary fishing licences to French boats lasting until January to allow for new arrangements to be put in place, the Guardian reported.