Britain will control what happens to Rosslare Port after Brexit unless the Government immediately acts, a Fianna Fáil TD has warned.
Transport Minister Shane Ross has come under fire for failing to bring Rosslare harbour — which is owned by a British company set up under UK statute — under full control of the State.
Wexford TD James Browne said:
“There is no other strategic asset in Ireland that is owned by a foreign state — Dublin Airport, Dublin, Cork, Foynes ports — and it’s not an appropriate ownership model.
The port is still owned by the British, they still control it. Ultimately if they wanted to be difficult about it, what’s to stop them changing or passing other legislation to effect the ownership of the port, technically they could just fold up the company if they wanted to.
The port was established under the Rosslare Fishguard Harbours Company 1898 by UK statutory instrument. This arrangement covers the two ports and part of the railway at either side.
Under this act, the British government delegated control of Rosslare to Iarnróid Eireann and Fishguard in Wales comes under the control of Stena Line.
Mr Browne, who met with former British transport secretary Chris Grayling over the summer, said it is frustrating as there are clear indications from the UK that they would be willing to address what he described as “a very unusual, complicated ownership quagmire”.
“I am absolutely calling on Mr Ross to intervene to solve the ownership problem,” said Mr Browne.
“The indications from the British government is that they are willing to resolve this, that they have no interest in Rosslare Europort, they are willing and able so why are we not perusing this?
“It has been ignored for a very long time but I would have thought with Brexit, now is the time to resolve it.” he said.
He said an act of parliament would have to be passed to allow Britain to divest its interest in Rosslare and parallel legislation brought through the Dáil.
A Department of Transport spokesman said the port is not owned by the British government but “technically, the port forms part of the Fishguard and Rosslare Railways and Harbours Company, which is a 19th-century joint-venture company, consisting today of Iarnród Éireann on the Irish side and Stena Line on the Welsh side”.
He added: “It is unique among the state-owned ports, as it is not a commercial company operating under the Harbours Acts, but is instead operated on a commercial basis as a division of Iarnród Éireann.”
Meanwhile, European Affairs Minister Helen McEntee has called “for space and time” to be given to the Brexit negotiators.
However, she said that, even with a “deal on the table, something that has been agreed by both sides”, the House of Commons could still stop it.