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Isabelle Braun-Lemaire, the head of France’s customs department, said many businesses have not anticipated the wave of red-tape that will prevent frictionless trade with the UK in the event of a no-deal Brexit. UK and EU businesses have expressed their fears about issues with shipping into and out of the continent without an agreement for January 1st. Minister of the Cabinet Office Micheal Gove has previously come under fire for proposals over Heavy Goods Vehicles needing permits to enter Kent.
With or without a trade agreement, around five million trucks crossing the Channel will have to submit paperwork to customs officials, but Ms Braun-Lemaire has claimed not every business is prepared for the change in rules.
She said to Reuters: “We consider that we, at French customs, are ready.
“Our infrastructure is ready but it relies on companies having taken on board the fact that with Brexit, there will be custom checks on all goods.
“And that’s a reality we think some companies have not taken into account yet.”
She also said around 100,000 French companies enjoy current free trade rules with the UK, and said she had no way of knowing whether they know how they will conduct trade with Britain in the future.
Ms Braun-Lemaire added: “Since trade is free today, we don’t know them. That’s tomorrow’s unknown.”
She went onto discuss how communications over technicalities with a new border arrangement have been kept to a minimum, and said: “We can’t have technical discussions that are as frank as we could have had.
“We’re not naive. We don’t know everything.”
Britain will leave the EU’s customs union regardless of a deal in the new year.
It comes after Mr Gove revealed in September HGV drivers in the UK will need a permit to enter Kent from 2021.
In a letter sent to logistics groups, he also outlined the “reasonable worst-case scenario” of leaving the EU with no deal would see queues of up to 7,000-trucks-long could block the roads leading into Dover and Folkestone, with delays of up to two days for lorries waiting to cross the Channel.
He also claimed only a quarter of businesses are “fully ready” for post-Brexit arrangements.
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Richard Burnett, chief executive of Road Haulage Association, attacked Mr Gove over the new rules
He said: “For years we’ve been warning government that there will be delays at ports, but with 70 working days to go until the end of the transition period they’re still not engaging with us to come up with the solutions.
“Government’s promises that the UK will be ready for business on 1 January are just a whitewash, and right now it appears that traders and haulage operators are being left to carry the can.”
The Mersey Port Health Authority has also expressed fears the Port of Liverpool may be abandoned by shipping companies after Brexit as over 11 times more checks on goods will be needed across the city’s port should the UK leave the EU without a deal.
It also follows Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government handing £77.6 million in contracts to four ferry companies to help post-Brexit freight shipping.
The Department for Transport announced that it has signed agreements with Brittany Ferries, DFDS, P&O Ferries and Stena Line, and said it will ensure vital medical supplies and other critical goods “continue to be smoothly delivered into the UK whatever the outcome of negotiations with the EU”.
The contracts will be in place for up to six months after the Brexit transition period ends on December 31st.
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, said: “As the transition period comes to an end, we are putting the necessary measures in place to safeguard the smooth and successful flow of freight.
“Securing these contracts ensures that irrespective of the outcome of the negotiations, life-saving medical supplies and other critical goods can continue to enter the UK from the moment we leave the EU.”
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