The warning comes after new French President Emmanuel Macron indicated that he might consider scrapping the Le Touquet treaty, made in 2003, which would see immigration controls moved from the French coast to the UK.
The FTA’s head of European policy Pauline Bastidon said: “The repatriation of border controls to the UK from France would have disastrous effects on the UK’s logistics industry, as well as on general traffic through the Channel ports.
“The Port of Dover has insufficient space to accommodate additional immigration checks – implementing such a change on UK soil would severely disrupt the cross-Channel flow of goods.”
Slow down supply chains
Bastidon argued that changes to border controls would slow down supply chains, which would hit time-sensitive cargoes – such as perishable food products – the hardest.
There was also a risk of people smugglers would see the French border as open, she claimed, leading to a large number of migrants trying to enter the UK.
Formally known as the Treaty between the government of the UK and the government of the French Republic concerning the implementation of frontier controls at sea ports of both countries on the Channel and North Sea.
Immigration checks take place before boarding a ferry, rather than upon arrival after disembarkation.
Source: UK Treaties Online
“This would increase the safety risks for drivers, who would once again see their vehicles targeted as they approached the Channel ports,” added Bastidon.
Checks are currently undertaken before trucks leave the continent to remove stowaways before the vehicles board ferries or enter the Channel Tunnel.
‘Liable for the heavy penalties’
“Removing this possibility would also place operators in a difficult situation and make them even more liable for the heavy penalties imposed by UK Border Force when stowaways are found on board vehicles,” Bastidon said.
About £119bn worth of trade passes through the maritime Calais–Dover route, according to the FTA.
“We urge both governments to maintain the status quo, in order to protect cross-Channel trade which is of vital importance to both the UK and France.”
Protests calling for the closure of the Calais migrant camp last year left lorries bringing food and drink into the UK stranded and put drivers at risk from violence. One driver was threatened with a chainsaw.
Meanwhile, fears over exports with the Republic of Ireland – the UK’s only land border with the EU – after Brexit have sparked major players in the food and drink industry to call on the government to reach an early trade deal.
- Disrupt the cross-Channel flow of goods
- Slow down supply chains
- A rise in people smuggling