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Last Updated: Saturday, 8 March 2008, 14:15 GMT
MEP seeks to resolve ferry strike
Operation Stack
Operation Stack is to remain in place until the strike ends
The President of France has been urged to intervene in a strike by SeaFrance ferry workers to help end the ongoing disruption on the M20 in Kent.

The walkout 10 days ago has turned it into a giant car park for thousands of lorries waiting to cross the Channel.

Richard Ashworth, the Conservative MEP for south-east England, has said it is time President Sarkozy stepped in.

He has asked the president of the European Parliament if he can make a statement on the dispute on Monday.

"Unfortunately, it seems all we can do at the moment is stamp our feet and complain to the French authorities and the European Union," he said.

'Trade links obstructed'

"The French are usually the first to talk about European solidarity in Brussels but they don't seem to care less when their internal disputes cause misery to everyone in south-east England.

"While I welcome the French president's resolve to reform France's uncompetitive employment practices, he must not stand by while industrial action obstructs European trade links."

Mr Ashworth added: "Given the strategic importance of Dover to the entire country's economy, it is concerning how easily passage across the Channel can be disrupted."

The leader of Kent County Council, Paul Carter, has also complained to the French President about the ongoing dispute.

In a letter to Mr Sarkozy, he said the action was causing "severe damage to our business economy and unacceptable inconvenience for residents".

SeaFrance ferry
SeaFrance ferries have been suspended since the strike began

"I support your aim of establishing minimum levels of service on public transport during strike action but this must be extended to cross-channel services as a matter of urgency to ensure that good transport connections between Kent and France continue and there is no negative impact on both our economies," Mr Carter said.

He added that for every day Operation Stack was in place on the M20, "the cost to the Kent economy runs into several millions of pounds".

Kent Police have urged people living and working in the county to consider whether their journeys are necessary as Operation Stack is likely to continue for some time.

On Saturday, motorists were being advised to leave the M20 at junction seven to avoid the heavy congestion which has built up between junctions seven and eight.

SeaFrance officials have asked passengers booked to travel to call them before setting off.

A spokeswoman said: "SeaFrance is working to end the action as soon as possible and contact between the parties is ongoing."

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