Ensuring that the UK landbridge remains an efficient and effective route to market for Irish traders is a priority of the Government's Brexit planning. When the transition period ends on 31 December 2020, operators will still be able to move goods via the landbridge but the way they use the landbridge will change. Each movement will involve new procedures and require a financial guarantee to be in place.
The UK’s accession to the Common Transit Convention (CTC) is welcome. The CTC allows EU goods to transit through the UK without undergoing full customs import and export formalities on entry and exit from the UK. We continue to work positively with our EU partners on addressing challenges in EU ports for traffic in transit via the landbridge. However, the Government has pointed out for some time now including in our 2019 and 2020 readiness plans that there will likely be delays at ports immediately after the end of the transition period, with Dover-Calais identified as a particular likely bottleneck. This is outside of our control. By contrast, goods moving directly between Ireland and elsewhere in the EU will not be subject to any new procedures. The Government has been engaging extensively with the shipping sector to assess the capacity available on direct routes to continental ports and I am working closely with my colleague Eamonn Ryan, the Minister for Transport. There is ongoing extensive engagement with the shipping sector who have indicated that sufficient capacity shipping is available on direct routes to continental ports. This is also the view of the Department of Transport and the assessment of the Irish Maritime Development Office who carried out a study of the UK landbridge in 2018, and who are currently updating that assessment based on developments since then.
A number of new direct services have already been launched in the last year, including; Cork – Zeebrugge, Dublin – Santander, Waterford – Rotterdam, Rosslare – Bilbao and Rosslare – Roscoff. Extra sailings are also planned in 2021, including Rosslare – Cherbourg, Cork – Roscoff. Ferry operators have indicated they are capable of responding to any further increase in demand. I encourage engagement between traders, hauliers and ferry companies to align capacity with needs. I would also encourage traders, where it is feasible to do so, to avoid the risk of disruption by moving to direct services now and not wait until after 1 January 2021.