The recent disruption at the French port of Calais must not be allowed to happen again, according to the chief executive of the Port of Dover.
In an open letter, Tim Waggott said while the Kent port has remained open and operational, disruption from last week's strikes and migrants had effectively turned off “the UK trade tap”, and made it very difficult for the port and its business partners to operate.
He said the port was vital to national prosperity, handling £100 billion of trade, but that in four days, the disruption has cost the UK economy £1 billion.
Strike action by French ferry workers has blocked traffic around the port of Calais, causing chaos that resulted in migrants attempting to take advantage of the disruption to cross the channel to the UK.
Waggott is calling on the UK government to take action to make sure that in the longer term it can ensure that the trade route remains open.
“The government must now look at turning its focus away from the immediate implications of a £1 billion strike to ensuring a £100 billion trade route can do its job 24/7; unimpeded by others for the long term,” he said.
“Unless supermarkets with empty shelves and assembly lines with vital parts missing are to become acceptable, then clearly under no circumstance should the recent situation be allowed to happen again.”
Waggott said the port was also approaching its busiest summer holiday period when it would handle as many travellers as Luton airport.
“Would we allow the majority of services from one of our major airports to be curtailed for several days during the summer because of a few militant French workers? Of course not. So why do we allow it to happen to an equivalent passenger hub at Dover that also handles £100 billion of the nation’s trade at the same time on a core EU transport corridor?”
Waggott said it was in everyone’s interests that the UK and French governments make sure that the Port of Dover can operate properly.
“This is not an immigration issue; neither should it result in navel gazing and meaningless statements on the need for mega lorry parks. This is a debate about our trading island nation maintaining the economic recovery. That is the challenge and what we have seen recently is the stark reality of what happens when Dover is prevented from doing its job by the lawless actions of others.”