January 9, 2019 / 2:36 PM / 2 years ago

Calais port boss expects little disruption from a no-deal Brexit

FILE PHOTO: A seagull flies over a sign at the harbour of Calais, northern France, June 30, 2015. REUTERS/Vincent Kessler/File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) - Britain leaving the European Union without an agreement over its future relationship with the bloc will not create delays at the French port of Calais, the port’s chief said on Wednesday, despite concerns raised over potential logistical chaos.

Dover is Britain’s main gateway to Europe, with up to 16,000 trucks a day passing through to Calais at peak times, transporting everything from perishable food to medicines and industrial goods needed to keep factories running.

Jean-Marc Puissesseau, president and chief executive of Port Boulogne Calais, told the BBC’s Today programme that the port “will be ready” on March 29, the date when Britain will leave the EU if no agreement is reached.

“The trucks will be passing as they are doing today,” he said. “There will not be any delay.”

In the EU’s single market, trucks drive smoothly through border checks. But in a no-deal Brexit, even a few minutes’ delay at customs for each truck would likely see vehicles backed up at ports and queued up on feeder roads both sides of the Channel.

France has said it was making preparations in case there was no Brexit deal, which included hiring hundreds of additional customs officers and extra border control facilities.

Puissesseau said Calais had been preparing for the possibility of a Brexit no-deal for a year and had demarcated a special area for lorry drivers who did not have the right paperwork in order not to slow down transit times.

He said they would only ask lorry drivers for “their customs declaration”, adding: “but we will not stop or ask more as we are doing today.”

The British government has faced mounting criticism over its preparations. A test-run on Monday of its plans for dealing with long queues of trucks at Dover was mocked as a farce by opponents.

Reporting by Jonathan Saul; editing by Stephen Addison

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