Franco-British Chamber (FBC): How has Brexit affected your business? And is there an event, a crisis, a statistic, or a particular problem that could concretely demonstrate this impact?
Dominique Mathern (DM); Although the UK is the second most important maritime trading partner of our port, Brexit has so far had little impact on our volumes. This is understandable, as the real impact of Brexit will only be felt from 1 January next year. Moreover, we do not expect Antwerp to be affected to the same extent as the coastal ports (Calais, Zeebrugge, Rotterdam, …): unlike the latter, we are not a ferry port where most traffic jams can be expected. The main volumes we exchange with the United Kingdom concern liquid bulk (linked to our famous chemical cluster) and containerised goods. It is precisely in the latter segment that we see an opportunity: after all, we expect a significant shift from accompanied (read “ferry”) to unaccompanied (read “container”) transport, due to the fluidity of the latter’s traffic.
FBC: In your opinion, what will Franco-British cooperation in your industry look like after Brexit?
DM: Agreement or no agreement, the UK’s exit from the EU and the customs union will make it a third country from a European point of view. We believe that our unique location and connectivity to the European hinterland (including France) will enable us to consolidate and even enhance our port’s position as a gateway to and from Britain. The biggest danger is that if no agreement is reached, for many companies on both sides of the Channel, their business plan may disappear due to higher costs and smaller markets. That is why it is very important that a balanced agreement is reached in the coming weeks.