French President Emmanuel Macron
France has prepared for the worst-case scenario to unravel on its border with the UK, spending 40 million euros and hiring 700 extra customs officers to ease disruptions. “France is ready. It was ready in March. It is even better prepared today – these tests prove it,” Mr Darmanin told reporters as he oversaw the customs drill at the Normandy port of Ouistreham. But Mr Darmanin, who is also in charge of customs, said British preparations for a hard divorce were a source of growing concern.
“I’m a little bit nervous about the way the British are preparing [for a no-deal scenario],” he said, adding that “you cannot re-create a border that hasn’t existed for several years … in just a few hours.”
He also expressed confidence that “there won’t be any traffic jams” on the French side of the border.
France has spent some 40 million euros (£35.6 million) and hired 700 extra customs officers to ease trade disruptions in the event of a no deal divorce, Mr Darmanin said, adding some 100 extra customs officers were being kept on standby.
A no deal Brexit is possible on October 31, meaning France will have to run customs checks on a wide range of goods arriving from Britain for the first time in 46 years.
Authorities have rushed to set up a “smart border” with cameras to scan the licence plates of trucks heading to the UK and automatically link them to shipping documents filled out by online exporters to facilitate traffic flows.
The UK Government, for its part, released a report on Wednesday saying a no deal Brexit could severely disrupt cross-Channel routes, affecting the supply of medicines and some fresh foods.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson
The Government’s “Operation Yellowhammer” report on the worst-case scenario said up to 85 percent of British lorries may not be ready for French customs checks in the event of a no deal, reducing the “flow rate to 40-60 percent of current levels”.
The report also said lorries could have to wait up to two and a half days to cross the Channel and that British citizens could be subject to increased immigration checks at EU border posts.
This situation could last up to three months, the report said, and disruption might last “significantly longer”.
France is the bloc’s biggest agricultural producer and exports large amounts of wine, spirits and dairy products to the UK, while relying on British waters to sustain its fishing industry.
With less than two months to go until Brexit, it is still unclear on what terms the UK will leave the Brussels bloc.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has promised to take Britain out of the European Union with or without a deal next month, and has said he will not ask for another delay despite lawmakers voting that he seeks one to prevent a no deal.