Northern France is facing a Brexit dilemma as time runs out to prepare for the potential disaster of a no deal Brexit. The Local spoke to the regional government to see how it is coping, what’s at stake and how the region could possibly benefit from Britain leaving the EU.
The northern French region of Hauts-de-France, the closest on the mainland Europe to the UK, fears potential gridlock at transit points regardless of the outcome of Brexit negotiations.
As talks appear at an impasse, fears mount that the four million lorries carrying goods from across Europe to the UK at ports in northern France will also grind to a halt once Britain leaves the EU, especially if there is no deal before Brexit Day on March 29th.
Xavier Bertrand, the president of the Hauts de France region summed up the potential crisis facing northern France.
“Today the Irish question is hugely sensitive issue for the British. But from an economic point of view, there are ten times fewer trucks on the border between Ireland and United Kingdom than on the border between Hauts-de-France and the UK: the ratio is between 400,000 and 4 million,” he said.
Calais, Boulogne-sur-Mer and Dunkirk make up France’s largest passenger port, its biggest fishing port and its number three cargo hub respectively.
All three are in Hauts-de-France, around 10 percent of whose exports head to the UK and where officials are fretting about the consequences a no-deal Brexit
Regional authorities are working on a “crisis management plan” to try to limit the potential chaos of Britain leaving the EU on March 29th.
But the dilemma for officials is that the region, France’s second most important for logistics after the greater Paris region of Île-de-France, cannot make extensive contingency plans until the outcome of the negotiations on Brexit and the future trade relationship between the UK and the EU is finalized.