French Transportation Officials Concerned About Brexit
The region of Calais in northern France is bracing for gridlock chaos as the United Kingdom continues its preparation to execute on the Brexit referendum to leave the European Union. This city is home to the busy port connecting most of the EU to the UK; as the situation currently stands, traffic at the Port of Calais is challenging due to security concerns; nonetheless, things could become even more complicated in a post-Brexit world that results in a “hard border,” which would require customs, immigration, sanitary, and agricultural inspections.
During a meeting in Brussels to discuss the future of port operations after Brexit, Calais port director Jean-Marc Puissesseau stated his concerns over a Brexit deal that creates so-called “hard borders” that the EU has not managed in decades. The problem would be in the ports of Calais and Dover, where thousands of trucks line up each day to transport goods into England for further distribution to Scotland and Wales.
Thus far, it is not clear whether British Prime Minister Theresa May will agree to leave the English Channel border operations between France and the UK as they currently are. A proposal by the EU to leave a soft border in place between Ireland and Northern Ireland was roundly rejected a few weeks ago; however, analysts are warning that the UK in beginning to realize that Brexit is a harder bargain than they first envisioned.
The port director also explained that 70 percent of food imports received by the UK pass through Calais and Dover. A hard border system could cause delays and eventually food shortages, not to mention the possibility of produce getting stuck at the port and spoiling due to border controls.
Brexit is being negotiated at a time when the port of Calais was considering a three-year expansion project that would cost more than $700 million. This project was also expected to create thousands of jobs for French construction workers along with a much needed injection to the regional economy of Hauts-de-France.
French politicians are in agreement with the Calais port director, and they have plead with EU negotiators to remind UK economists the dire situation that a hard border would cause. Trade talks between the UK and the EU are scheduled to resume in March, but the EU is drawing a hard line with regard to borders, which officials believe need to be as open as possible in order to facilitate trade.
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