Police at Zeebrugge yesterday appealed to motorists to avoid the port as far as possible, after a sudden panic among lorry drivers fearful of having to wait until the UK had left the European Union.
Brexit officially took effect at midnight CET on Friday (23.00 in London). The approach of the British departure from the EU led to lorry drivers, perhaps not fully understanding that both parties will carry on as usual for the next year, made a rush for the port to avoid any possibility of being caught in a situation where free trade is no longer the rule.
“Clearly, drivers wanted to embark today rather than tomorrow, the official Brexit day,” a police spokesperson told Belga. “It’s only panic, because nothing is going to change for the transport of goods.”
However, according to another source, the unusual rush at Zeebrugge had nothing to do with Brexit, but was caused by striking dock workers at the French ports of Dunkirk and Calais.
“The longer the strike lasts, the earlier lorry drivers will know whether they have to divert to Zeebrugge,” said the mayor of Bruges Dirk De fauw. “We expect that to happen more often in the coming days. That’s clearly good for the traffic through Zeebrugge, but we do need to keep an eye on the situation.”
Zeebrugge will have to be prepared for an increase in goods traffic, as the French strike is expected to last one to two weeks. Exactly how serious the problem might be depends on the shipping companies: the more ships they lay on at Zeebrugge, the more lorries passing through the port can make the crossing – Brexit or no Brexit.