Deputy Calais Mayor Jean-Marc Puissesseau has dismantled scare stories that Britain will have to reroute freight or that there will be massive delays at ports in the event of a “No Deal” Brexit.
“We have been preparing for a ‘No Deal’ Brexit [for] one year in Calais. From the 29th of March, we will be ready,” Mr Puissesseau told Mishal Husain on BBC Radio 4’s Todayprogramme on Wednesday.
“When [France’s transport minister] came to Calais, we told him we would be ready.
“As Great Britain has decided not to check any trucks in export and not to check any trucks in import, we will not check the trucks more than we are doing today [for illegal migrants].
“The other thing that we will be doing is only asking the driver the customs declaration.
“We will not stop more or ask more than we do today,” he said firmly.
The assurances come as No Deal preparations by the British Department for Transport to divert up to 3,000 lorries a day to Ramsgate for shipping to Ostend, Belgium, to boost capacity in the event of delays on the Dover-Calais route are revealed.
The Calais chief explained that while drivers will need to supply customs declarations, his team have been conducting surveys of clients of two ferry companies and have put arrangements and more staff in place, with protocols if someone has forgotten to complete their forms.
“This in no way we will be slowing down the traffic,” Mr Puissesseau promised, assuring listeners that millions had been spent to prepare for a No Deal to ensure the British can keep sending freight to the continent via Calais.
The Frenchman then declared his “complete shock” that British Transport Secretary Chris Grayling had announced the reopening the Ramsgate port and the route with the Belgian city of Ostend, taking it as a personal slight.
“I am very shocked. I consider it disrespectful to Calais and to Dover,” he said.
When Ms Husain interjected to explain that Department of Transport did so to prepare for delays, Mr Puissesseau interrupted, saying, “It’s wrong. It’s not true. It’s not true. There will not be more delays.”
“The trucks will be passing as they do today,” he insisted.
On Monday, former Brexit secretary David Davis criticised the BBC for failing to report that Calais and other ports were preparing for a no deal, saying on the Todayprogramme, “One of the things that never gets covered in the BBC coverage on this is all the French preparations that are going on.
“This all hinges around Dover-Calais, which is one potential choke point,” he said.
“The head of French customs have said they’re going to arrange inspections arrangements that facilitate and accelerate through port.
“Indeed, other ports are saying the same. Rotterdam, Zeebrugge, Antwerp — all saying the same.”
The House of Commons is set to vote on Prime Minister Theresa May’s EU Withdrawal Agreement on Tuesday. It is widely expected to fail, with the default legal position being that the United Kingdom making a clean break of the EU on March 29th, 2019 when it does.
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