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Department of Economics Brown Bag Seminar with Ciarřn Mac Domhnaill All at sea? Brexit, shipping and the UK land-bridge

Abstract: How has Brexit affected maritime cargo volumes? Has Brexit caused a diversion of cargo from the UK `land-bridge' trade route between Ireland and mainland Europe to direct short sea shipping routes? To answer these questions, in this study, I analysed Eurostat port-level data on cargo volumes between 2013 and 2022 using a difference-in-differences methodology. Roll-on roll-off (Ro-Ro) and liquid bulk cargo represented most of the cargo shipped between the EU-27 and the UK during the study period.
While I found no effect on liquid bulk, I found a 27 per cent decrease in EU-UK Ro-Ro cargo volumes that could be causally attributed to Brexit. Regression results revealed that Ireland-UK Ro-Ro cargo volumes were particularly adversely affected by Brexit, with a 54 per cent decrease. However, I determined that this occurred alongside a 147 per cent increase in Ro-Ro cargo volumes between Ireland and France that was caused by Brexit.
This represented clear evidence of a Brexit-induced shift from the UK land-bridge route to the direct Ireland-France short-sea shipping route, which would likely have led to a reduction in the energy consumption and carbon emissions associated with this freight transport.