Published On: Tue, Oct 22nd, 2019

France panic: Paris warns companies not ready for Brexit – ‘Hurry up and take action!’   | World | News

The JDD cited results of an October poll of 3,000 SMEs that found 54 percent of the companies interviewed did not know how Britain’s exit from the bloc would impact their business. Some 40 percent said they had looked into the potential consequences while only 6 percent said they had exact calculations. The survey also found that 53 percent of the companies said they were poorly prepared for Brexit, compared with 47 percent which said they were well prepared. The French government has warned companies bringing goods in and out of the UK through its border after Brexit that they alone are responsible for making sure their paperwork is in order.

“I cannot be satisfied with the fact that 54 percent of the companies surveyed declared not having examined the consequences of Brexit for themselves, their clients and their suppliers,” France’s junior economy minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher told the JDD.

“They need to hurry up and take action,” Mme Pannier-Runacher continued.

The French government is urging businesses to step up preparations for a no-deal Brexit, though junior budget minister Olivier Dussopt admitted last month that things were “moving in the right direction but are not yet sufficient”.

Britain is due to leave the EU on October 31, and while Prime Minister Boris Johnson is trying to strike a last-minute deal, he has also said that if the EU rejects his demands then he will lead the country out of the bloc without an agreement in place to cushion the blow.

A no-deal divorce – a nightmare scenario for many businesses – would be abrupt with trade reverting to basic World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules: new customs controls, tariffs and non-tariff barriers would be applied to some 438 billion pounds of trade.

The most significant risks remain the low number of traders ready for the new checks – as little as 30 percent – the likelihood of EU controls and the ongoing uncertainty over the Irish border, the National Audit Office said in a report published last week.

“Although the government has actions under way to influence these, mitigating these risks is now, to some extent, out of its control,” the government’s spending watchdog said.

“It’s impossible to know exactly what would happen at the border in the event of a no-deal.”

More than 250 million tons of freight crossed between the UK and the rest of the EU in 2018, so any disruption at the border could turn southern England and Northern France into huge lorry parks as ports grind to a halt.  

Dover, Britain’s most important gateway to Europe, is as prepared for Brexit as it can be but there are uncertainties over the extent to which freight operators are ready for new declarations and whether France will be able to keep goods moving, the port’s chief executive, Doug Bannister, told Reuters.  

More than 10,000 trucks a day pass through the port.

France, for its part, is hiring 700 extra customs officers and has installed “smart border” systems at its northern port of Calais in an attempt to minimise disruption.

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