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White Cliffs of Dover to be sold to the French to help reduce Government's debt



By Vanessa Allen

Last updated at 10:06 PM on 07th February 2010




For generations Dover has stood as an indomitable symbol of Britain’s freedom and independence.

The town, with its white cliffs, port and sprawling castle stood at the very edge of the nation’s frontier with the Continent.

But now part of that proud history is up for sale and the leading bidder is revealed as the former age-old enemy – France.


article-1249194-08314587000005DC-815_468x315.jpg Heritage of defiance: A Spitfire over the White Cliffs of Dover


The Port of Dover is being recommended by Government advisers for sale to the French authorities.

It is one of a string of public assets which have been earmarked for privatisation as the Government battles with a record £830billion national debt.

The proposal for the port has prompted outrage.

Prospective Tory MP for Dover Charles Elphicke said: ‘It’s clear Gordon Brown has no sense of the history of our nation or the pride of our town.

‘How dare he consider selling it all off to the French? Dover is the English border. The people of Dover have a clear message for him – hands off our port, hands off the English border.’





A sale of the Port of Dover, Europe’s busiest ferry port, could net up to £350million for the Treasury. Its harbour board applied to the Transport Secretary for voluntary privatisation last month.

The sale is expected to be rubber-stamped and the leading bidder has emerged as Nord-pas-de-Calais regional council, which also owns Calais.

article-0-01D942B600000578-73_233x359.jpg Broker: Gerry Grimstone, chairman of Standard Life, is advising the Government on the possible sale of Dover port


The French port is just 21 miles away across the Channel and the sale would mark a dramatic reversal in the fortunes of the two towns. Calais was captured by the English under Edward III in 1347, and the occupation lasted for more than two centuries.

The Port of Dover is the largest British port still in the public sector and made a profit of £15.1million in 2008.

It is a ‘trust port’, meaning all revenues are reinvested into it, and it is now seeking £400million to expand. Bosses anticipate a doubling in freight traffic by 2040.

Chief executive Bob Goldfield said: ‘The time is right for the voluntary privatisation of Dover. We want to invest around £400million on a second terminal and need to invest in the existing terminal, but are unable to because of public sector borrowing constraints. We want to throw off the shackles.’

Other major ports were sold off under the 1991 Ports Act, but Dover was retained because of uncertainty over how construction of the Channel Tunnel might affect it.

Gwyn Prosser, the town’s Labour MP, warned that jobs could be lost. The port’s workforce has shrunk by 60 per cent over the past eight years.

Mr Prosser said: ‘This is a strategic asset and we must be careful about the import of foreign capital.’

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