Urgent action needed to reduce ports chaos in no-deal

There could be a lot of complications at Channel ports in the no-deal Brexit scenario

There would be massive challenges at the Channel ports in the case of a no-deal, the prefect of the Hauts-de-France has warned the French government.

An extra 250 border police and 195 customs agents would have to be recruited before March 29 in a bid to cope with the complications involved in extra checks, says Michel Lalande in a letter to the Interior Minister, quoted in Le Monde. 

France would have to prepare for a scenario where Britons visiting France (and vice versa) are third country foreigners requiring visitor visas that need to be checked and trade goods have to be inspected, he said – which would cause long queues and delays if new procedures and staff are not able to be rapidly deployed.

On top of this checks of produce and animals would according to the rules have to be done in dedicated approved, installations – which do not currently exist and would normally take two years to put in place.

This comes as the UK’s Brexit Minister, Dominic Raab, has told the Conservative conference that if the EU attempts to enforce a solution to the future trade relationship and the Ireland/Northern Ireland border that amounts to the UK having to remain in the customs union or that “threatens the integrity of our union”, then the only choice will be no-deal.

Mr Lalande said in the case of no-deal all the rules on passengers and merchandise would have to be reviewed and there would be problems of queues and blockages in the ports, the severity of which would depend on the means that are mustered to deal with it.

He said the region is working on a “crisis management plan” aimed at limiting the effects as far as possible.

In terms of the entry of people, Mr Lalande said no-deal would mean Britons coming to France (or vice versa) would have to get out of their cars and go to check points for their visas to be examined and to prove le viatique – meaning sufficient travel provisions for their stay in terms of money (or travellers’ cheques etc), and medical insurance to a value of at least €30,000.

This would cause congestion as the facilities for checking people’s paperwork are currently “very limited”, he said.

There would also have to be new ‘checking lines’ set aside for coaches and lorries, he added. In the meantime he said they need to look at ways to lighten the formalities so as to minimise problems.

They would also have to consider solutions such as moving goods vehicles into other nearby communes to do the animal and produce checks and finding ways to reduce the number of checks based on a “risk analysis”.

Businesses would also have to be offered help to understand new customs formalities.

Minimising blockages is not just a question of public order but also a matter of maintaining the competitiveness of the French ports, Mr Lalande said.

The state has already said it is gearing up to recruit some 700 extra customs officers before the next presidential and legislative elections in 2022. It also says it is looking for technological solutions to minimise physical checks.

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