Calais Chief: Northern France ‘Ready’ for ‘No Deal’ Brexit

DOVER, ENGLAND - MARCH 05: Lorry drivers board a ferry to Calais at the port of Dover on March 5, 2018 in Dover, England. The haulage industry faces an uncertain future while Brexit negotiations between the British government and the European Union continue. Many in the industry, which currently enjoys …
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VICTORIA FRIEDMAN

The head of France’s most strategic port for UK shipping has said that his region is ready for a WTO Brexit.

President of the Calais region Xavier Bertrand told Sky News on Friday, “Calais, Boulogne, Dunkirk, will be ready at the end of March. And you? Are you ready?”

“The UK is leaving the EU — that’s its choice, it’s democratic choice. Now, it’s important to remember when the UK leaves it will be outside the EU, but it won’t be alien.”

“It’s a test of pragmatism. We need to maintain fluidity and jobs. And we can write a new chapter in the relationship [between the UK and the EU] so there’s a time for politics.

“Many talk about the legal phase, but we must not let the legal aspect become the enemy of economics.”

Mr Bertrand made similar comments in an opinion piece published in The Telegraph on Wednesday, writing, “I would like to make it absolutely clear: our ports and the Eurotunnel will be ready, including in the event of a no deal.”

“…in Lille, I recently brought together hundreds of businesses, from various European countries, to talk with British and French customs and civil servants.

“I want to protect jobs in France and the UK, but also in the rest of the EU: because cross-Channel trade matters for the whole of Europe,” he added.

The regional president’s comments come after Deputy Calais Mayor Jean-Marc Puissesseau dismantled scare stories that the UK would have to reroute freight from the Dover-Calais route to Ramsgate-Ostend (in Belgium) to boost capacity in the event of additional customs checks following the UK exiting the EU on World Trade Organization (WTO) terms.

While both French administrators have not denied that there will be additional paperwork and there may be some delays, both have pointed out that provisions, including extra lorry lanes and staff, have been prepared to mitigate delays, rejecting claims that Europe is entirely unprepared for the additional workload and trade between the UK and EU would come to a standstill.

Mr Puissesseau told BBC Radio 4 in January, “As Great Britain has decided not to check any trucks in export and not to check any trucks in import, we will not check the trucks more than we are doing today [for illegal migrants].

“The other thing that we will be doing is only asking the driver the customs declaration.

“We will not stop more or ask more than we do today,” he said firmly.

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