Channel migrants crisis bites into British business

GMT 19:42 2015 Monday ,03 August

Arab Today, arab today Channel migrants crisis bites into British business

Hundreds of trucks
London - AFP

The disruption to freight between Britain and mainland Europe caused by strikes and illegal immigration is starting to hurt British businesses, from luxury English car manufacturers to Scottish seafood exporters.

Industrial action and delays caused by migrants massed at the French port of Calais are taking a toll on the other side of the Channel, with thousands of trucks queueing up at England's southeastern tip for ferry and freight shuttle rail services.

"While clearly hampering holidaymakers, the disruption at Calais also has an economic impact as exporters are being delayed getting their goods to market," said Katja Hall, deputy director-general of the Confederation of British Industry, the nation's biggest employers' body.

The disruption is costing the British economy £250 million ($390 million, 355 million euros) a day in lost trade, according to the Freight Transport Association trade body.

The freight industry alone is losing £750,000 a day due to trucks being stuck on the British side of the Channel, not to mention the loss of perishable goods, said the FTA.

Several are switching to longer routes and other forms of transport to get their goods to continental Europe.

- Scotland feels pain -

The effect is being felt the whole length of Britain, not just in the southeastern corner closest to France.

The devolved Scottish government held an urgent meeting Monday aimed at finding alternative export routes for its seafood industry, which has been hit particularly hard.

Scotland exported £461 million of seafood products to mainland Europe last year and the sector is particularly concerned given how quickly perishable seafood is.

The situation is particularly tough for shellfish and other seafood exporters to continental Europe, more so than for Scotland's famous salmon industry.

The secessionist Scottish National Party in power in Edinburgh has used the situation to pile the pressure on British Prime Minister David Cameron in London.

"The delays, damage and uncertainty caused by the lack of safe and timeous passage through the Tunnel is costing the sector millions of pounds every week and placing future markets in jeopardy," Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wrote in a letter to Cameron.

"Seafood exports are almost five times as important to Scotland as to the UK as a whole, therefore this impact is disproportionately severe in Scotland," the nationalist leader added.

- Manufacturers hit -

The Federation of Small Businesses told AFP that the majority of their members affected by the disruption were in manufacturing, wholesale and retail trade, and construction.
The key automobile sector has been affected, with Rolls-Royce, whose factory is at Goodwood near the English south coast, among those feeling the impact.

"The situation regarding incoming parts and materials has been challenging, and as a consequence we have had some disruption to production," said a spokesman for Rolls-Royce Motor Cars, a subsidiary of Germany's BMW.

"However, as a luxury manufacturer, we have inherent flexibility in our operations."

Companies have felt forced to implement emergency measures, such as chartering aircraft at great expense.

Logistics solutions firms have seen a boost in business, among them Evolution Time Critical, which works with the automobile industry.

"We have provided customers with increased levels of support with critical deliveries in order to maintain uninterrupted production as supply chains were disrupted due to the congestion in Calais," Brad Brennan, director-general of the firm based in England and Germany, told AFP.


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