Europe Hires Hundreds of Customs Officers in Anticipation of ‘Hard Brexit’

Rotterdam port
Carl Court/Getty

European nations are recruiting hundreds of customs officers to conduct border checks, as suspicions grow the UK could break free of the bloc, in less than a year, without a trade deal.

The revelation comes as the next round of Brexit talks get underway this week, with numerous seemingly intractable issues still to resolve in the negotiations, which will conclude in the Autumn.

Citizens’ rights, as well as the tens-of-billions Brexit ‘divorce bill’, have been agreed, but both sides continue to hold irreconcilable positions and “red lines” on the Northern Ireland border issue and others.

Now, according to the Evening Standard, in Holland, customs authorities are hiring hundreds of inspectors and building new checkpoints.

The Dutch aim to make Europe’s largest port, in Rotterdam, ready for the possibility of bringing in customs checks and trading with the UK on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules after Brexit in March 2019.

Mark Dijk, the port’s external affairs manager, said they are “preparing for the worst, hoping for the best”, when speaking to a cross-party group of EU parliamentarians last week.

“We go to the basic scenario for us, which is the WTO scenario,” he added.

“It’s dependent, of course, on how the Dutch customs is going to handle it – and that’s also, of course, dependent on Europe, how they’re going to decide how those regulations should be interpreted in this period.”

Many Brexit supporters are comfortable with leaving the bloc without a deal, claiming it will mean the UK is not tied to any EU rules and regulations in the future. Critically, the UK will be sure to take back control of its borders and trade policy.

However, other say the impediment done to trade by new border checks and tariffs will harm the economy more than the benefits brought to the UK by striking new deals with non-European nations after Brexit.

The UK is Holland’s third most important trading partner, and the Netherlands and many other EU nations are also worried about the harm a “no deal” will do to their economies.

At the beginning of this year, a leaked EU dossier has revealed the bloc’s growing concern and said Germany, France, Spain, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Ireland would be worst affected.

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