IRISH CATTLE exporters are planning to use the UK as a so-called “land bridge” to enable them to continue shipping live animals to France.

The Irish are hoping that the land bridge will operate once P&O closes its ferry facility from Rosslare to Cherbourg in mid-December.

Representatives from the Irish department of agriculture were in Brussels this week (w/e Nov 26) to put their case to the EU‘s standing committee of the food chain.

“The response was encouraging,” said a spokesman.

“They did not kick it into touch, and the commission agreed to come forward with proposals.”

Exports of Irish cattle via the UK are currently banned because of BSE restrictions, though the Irish hope to secure a derogation.

Agreement with the UK authorities is another condition.

And informal talks were held between Irish agriculture minister Mary Coughlan and UK ministers in the fringes of this week‘s farm council in Brussels.

The Irish Farmers‘ Association said farmers were eager to protect their live export trade.

As well as the UK land bridge option, the IFA was working with a French shipper to take over the Rosslare-Cherbourg route.

It was hoping for EU funds to facilitate a deal.