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The eco brief. Boulogne-sur-Mer and Calais severely affected by the severance of links with the United Kingdom


Queues of heavy goods vehicles on the A16 towards Calais (Pas-de-Calais). Illustrative photo. (EMMANUEL BOUIN / FRANCE-BLEU NORD)

The images of the trucks that have been piling up on both sides of the Channel for several days are impressive. The blockage due to Covid-19 adds to the effects of Brexit. Events collide and it is the entire coastline of the Hauts-de-France region that is found almost paralyzed. The effects are even felt further in the region, near Valenciennes, where the Japanese automobile giant Toyota is suspending the activity of its Onnaing plant, which manufactures the Yaris. Lack of spare parts with transport delays and uncertainty about the duration of the border closures.

The Opal Coast is made up of two major centers of activity: Boulogne-sur-Mer and Calais. Calais is the epicenter of cross-Channel traffic with connections to Dover and Folkestone (the city is only 30 km from South East England) via ferries and the Channel Tunnel. There is of course passenger traffic, but above all commercial traffic. Calais is the leading French port for road traffic (goods traffic excluding containers). For local transport companies it is a dead financial loss. For the Calais-based company Carpentier for example, with a fleet of 80 trucks, the paralysis represents a loss of turnover of 10,000 euros, not to mention the uncertainty about the recovery.

Boulogne-sur-Mer is the leading fishing port in France and the leading European center for the processing of seafood products. Fish arrives from all of Europe and Great Britain to be processed mainly in the Capécure district, the economic heart of the city, where some 140 refrigeration companies are concentrated. 60,000 tonnes of fresh raw material are imported each year from the United Kingdom to Boulogne, representing 180 million euros in turnover.

All this activity is now paralyzed. On the spot, we hope that this is not a foretaste of Brexit and its economic consequences on this side of the Channel.

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