November 29, 2018 / 11:37 AM / a year ago

French companies in denial over Brexit, says minister Darmanin

Gerald Darmanin, French Minister of Public Action and Accounts, attends the questions to the government session at the National Assembly in Paris, France, October 23, 2018. REUTERS/Charles Platiau

PARIS (Reuters) - French companies are not facing up to the reality of Britain’s exit from the European Union (EU) next year and are ill prepared for a hard Brexit, said French minister Gerald Darmanin who is in charge of customs.

Budget minister Darmanin said on Thursday that he was not only “very worried” about companies’ lack of interest in Brexit, but also said many were unaware it could happen without an agreement in place over Britain’s future relations with the EU.

British Prime Minister Theresa May is trying to sell a proposed deal with the EU to her divided parliament for a vote on Dec. 11. The EU insists the deal will not be renegotiated.

“I think French businesses really need to understand that Brexit can happen ... and can happen without any deal,” Darmanin told a special Brexit committee in France’s lower house of parliament.

Darmanin said he recently attended a Brexit information meeting in northern France where only 30 people showed up even though the meeting had been requested by the business community.

“For the first time in my life, I’ve got the impression that the public administration is better prepared than the business world,” he added.

The French government is in the process of hiring 700 extra customs agents and looking to invest millions of euros in extra border control facilities in preparation for a no-deal Brexit.

Reporting by Leigh Thomas and Myriam Rivet; Editing by Sudip Kar-Gupta

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