New links between France and Ireland, one of the most obvious ‘Brexit benefits’ – for Ireland, at least – continue to be forged.
These include new ferry services and travel deals, a film industry partnership, and a 575km electricity cable under the sea.
Ireland began pursuing closer links in 2019 when it announced a new ‘strategy for France’.
In 2021, the two signed a joint action plan, which Taoiseach Leo Varadkar and President Macron recently discussed again over lunch at the Élysée.
This year saw an Irish consulate open in Lyon and the chairman of Brittany Ferries Jean-Marc Roué become honorary Irish consul in Roscoff.
Expanding trade routes
Links between French and Irish ports have reportedly quadrupled in less than two years as hauliers opt for sea route deliveries to and from France instead of via the UK ‘land bridge’.
Recently, representatives from the Port of Dunkirk visited Ireland to discuss a “significant” expansion of trade routes, aiming at stronger links with Dublin and Rosslare and routes for the first time with Cork and Waterford.
Rosslare says EU freight coming through the port is already up 370% compared to 2019.
Ferry-train ticket deal
A Rosslare-Dunkirk freight ferry route was launched in 2020 by Danish firm DFDS, which in 2022 started trialling a passenger service as the trade route had been “extremely popular”.
Swedish firm Stena Line started a new Rosslare-Cherbourg freight-only service last year alongside its existing passenger service. It says a new large combined freight-passenger ferry will replace the freight ferry in June, doubling sailing frequency for passengers and tripling passenger capacity.
France and Ireland are also set to launch a new combined ferry-train ticket deal that can be used in both countries from summer 2023, meaning one ticket can cover a complete journey.
It comes as Brittany Ferries announced passengers being down 35% in 2022 on Channel routes compared to 2019 (pre-pandemic/Brexit) but up 46% on its France-Ireland routes.
Seven French and Irish universities made an agreement on closer cooperation in 2021.
Cable will increase electricity exports both ways
A spokesman for the Irish embassy in Paris said the Celtic Interconnector cable was another key deal, though the idea pre-dates Brexit.
A financing and construction agreement was signed in Paris in November in a €1.6billion partnership between Irish state electricity operator EirGrid and RTE France.
“The cable will go from Cork to Brittany, with construction beginning in 2023. It should be operational by 2026. Ireland will export renewable energy to France and vice versa.
“We have this with the UK too but find that when it’s windy there, it’s windy in Ireland, but that is not true of France.
“So, by having wind and demand at different times, we will be able to increase exports both ways,” the spokesman said.
Brexit not sole factor in closer ties
The cinema deal will mean joint French-Irish productions in either country will be eligible for funding from both. “It will facilitate the development of talent and the local industries.”
The spokesman said Brexit is “definitely a major factor” in the increasing links, though there are “other dimensions”.
For example, he said Ireland joined the UN Security Council in 2021, meaning France and Ireland are now the only EU members to sit on it, which has also led to closer cooperation.
Ireland will also open its first embassy in French-speaking west Africa, in Dakar, in 2023.