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CALAIS

Calais could see traffic chaos on all roads after Brexit, port chief warns

The northern English Channel port of Calais, the gateway to the UK, could see tailbacks up to 30 miles long in all directions after Brexit, the port's chief has warned as he pleads to Britain and the EU to take steps to avoid border chaos.

Calais could see traffic chaos on all roads after Brexit, port chief warns

Jean-Marc Puissesseau, the head of the port of Calais said if the Brexit deal results in a hard border that involves mandatory customs and sanitary checks at the ferry terminal then there will be traffic chaos on all roads leading to the town.

At a private meeting in the Brussels Puissesseau said UK Prime Minister Theresa May and Michel Barnier needed to put plans in place to ensure there is no congestion at Dover or Calais after Britain's eventual exit from the EU, the Guardian newspaper reported.

“I am worried about the slowdown of traffic if there are controls. Imagine 2m trucks being checked in Calais,” he said.

The Calais port chief lamented the future problems he expects at the port as suppliers from the UK try to pass their goods through EU controls.

“The UK is part of the 21st century. But this takes us back 100 years. This is sad,” he said. “From Brexit day, 100 percent of our traffic will be from outside the EU. I tell you honestly that GB will be a third country, this frightens me. There’s such a long history between the UK and EU.”

He also suggested Britain could be hit by food shortages if there are problems with suppliers from the EU getting across the Channel.

“At the moment, 70 percent of food imported comes from the EU. Even if that goes down to 50 percent after Brexit because of controls, it still needs to flow smoothly; people still need to eat,” he said. “If there are delays it could end up rotting on the side of the road.”

The port chief expressed regret that Brexit also threatens the viability of Calais' three-year €700 million expansion plan which includes new docks to accommodate wider and longer ferries.

“We based our calculation on the growing population in the UK. We thought if there were more and more people, then their needs for food, cars, everything, increases and traffic will increase and we need to prepare for that,” said Puissesseau. “But then Brexit comes along and we have a new problem.”

Xavier Bertrand, the president of the region of Hauts-de-France, which includes the ports of Calais, Dunkirk and Boulogne-sur-Mer, also expressed concern about the possible future chaos around the northern port.

Bertrand suggested the problems at Calais could be 10 times worse than at the Irish border.

“I know Ireland is going to be a real problem, but please remember the economic issues in Ireland are 10 times smaller than what is going to happen here,” he said. “This is a black scenario, but it is going to get darker and darker,” he said.

Bertrand and other politicians in northern France have repeatedly expressed concern that Brexit could damage the economy of a region that is already hit by some of France's highest unemployment rates.

Earlier this year President Emmanuel Macron tried to reassure politicians and business leaders in the area that France will fight to ensure the territory remains attractive.

“I realise how much uncertainty there is in several economic sectors; fishing, industry, logistics,” Macron said in a speech in Calais, ahead of a meeting with Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May in January.

A so-called 'hard border' with Britain could crimp the billions of euros' worth of goods that flow through the port each year, a grim prospect for local businesses and industry executives.

“No matter the changes to come and the relations between the European Union and the United Kingdom, the territory will remain attractive in these areas,” he said.

He said France would press its concerns with the EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who is scheduled to begin talks on an eventual trade deal with Britain in March.

“The region's interests will be fully taken into account in the negotiations that France will lead, and I will make our case known in March with our negotiator, Mr Barnier,” he said.

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BREXIT

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Brexit really does mean that Britons are no longer EU citizens. Claudia Delpero looks at whether there's any other way they can keep their rights.

Is new court ruling the end for Britons fighting to remain EU citizens?

The Court of Justice of the European Union confirmed on Thursday that Britons lost EU citizenship when the UK left the EU, on 1st February 2020. 

It is the first time the EU’s top court has rules on the matter, after a number of legal cases challenged this specific Brexit outcome. The decision also sets a precedent should other countries decide to leave the bloc in the future. 

What has the EU Court decided?

The Court of Justice decided on a case brought by a British woman living in France.

Before Brexit, she could vote and stand as a candidate in her town of residence, Thoux. But after the UK withdrawal from the EU, she was removed from the electoral roll and excluded from the municipal elections that took place in March 2020, during the transition period.  

As the mayor refused her appeal to restore the registration, she took the case to the regional court in Auch, which agreed to request an interpretation of the rules to the EU top court. 

Julien Fouchet, the barrister supporting her and several other cases on the EU citizenship of British nationals, argued that the loss of EU citizenship and voting rights was disproportionate. It would also be contrary to the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights, given that the woman also lost her voting rights in the UK, having lived abroad for more than 15 years.

Alice Bouillez, who has lived in France since 1984 and is married to a French national, could have applied for French citizenship, but did not do so because she said “this was not necessary” before Brexit and, as a former UK official, she had taken an oath of allegiance to the Queen.

On Thursday the Court of Justice announced the decision about her case. The court ruled that the “possession of the nationality of a member state is an essential condition for a person to be able to acquire and retain the status of citizen of the Union and to benefit fully from the rights attaching to that status.”

The court therefore confirmed that British nationals automatically lost their EU citizenship as a result of Brexit and, as a consequence, Britons also lost their voting and electoral rights in municipal elections in the EU (unless the country where they live set different rules). 

What is EU citizenship?

EU citizenship was introduced by the Treaty of Maastricht of 1992, when borders were opening and the bloc was integrating economically after the end of the Cold War. 

Under the treaty, every person holding the nationality of an EU member state is a citizen of the Union. EU citizenship is additional and does not replace nationality, the treaty specifies. But this creates the first form of a transnational citizenship that grants rights across borders.

EU citizens have the right to access each other’s territory, job market and services under the principle of non-discrimination. If they are economically active, they have the right to reside in other EU states and be joined by family members, access healthcare at the same conditions of nationals (for emergency treatment also when travelling temporarily), obtain social security benefits and see their professional qualifications recognised.

Beyond free movement, at the core of EU citizenship there are also political rights, such as participating in the European Parliament election, voting and standing as candidates in municipal elections when living in other EU countries, receiving consular protection from other EU states outside the EU, and taking part in European Citizens’ Initiatives asking to the EU to legislate on certain matters. 

Which EU citizenship rights have Britons lost with Brexit? 

For British citizens who were living in the EU before Brexit, the Withdrawal Agreement protects some of these rights. Britons covered by deal have their residence, access to work and education, healthcare, social security and qualifications secured, but only in the country where they were living before Brexit.

But the right to free movement in other EU states, consular protection in third countries, and the political rights attached to EU citizenship were lost, the Court confirmed. 

For British citizens in the UK, the trade and cooperation agreement has preserved some social security rights and, in theory, the possibility to have professional qualifications recognized when moving to an EU country. These provisions however lack details and may take a long time before they work in practice. 

As the “European Union” no longer features on British passports, the possibility to access EU lanes at airports to skip passport control queues has also vanished. 

“The loss of those treasured rights has been clear to those of us living in the EU from the early days of Brexit. But for Brits in the UK, the realities of life outside the EU, and the consequences of Brexit, are only just dawning. Long queues at the borders, roaming charges, obstacles to working abroad, etc. are the new reality,” said Sue Wilson, Chair of the group Remain in Spain. 

While she said the court’s decision was “no real surprise,” she argued that “this is not the Brexit the public were promised, or that the majority voted for.”

Can British citizens get some of these rights back?

Julien Fouchet was disappointed at the Court decision and promised to continue the legal fight, bringing the case at the European Court of Human Rights (which is not an EU institution). 

Other two cases on the matter of EU citizenship for British nationals are still pending at the Court of Justice of the EU. One of them aims to determine whether EU citizenship is a “fundamental status” that cannot be removed but Thursday’s decision could have already provided the answer.

Another option to reconsider some of the rights is the renegotiation of EU-UK trade agreement, when it will be reviewed in 2025. 

Meanwhile, the EU is revising the rules for non-EU citizens living in EU countries on a long-term basis, making it easier to move across borders. 

Applying for citizenship is so far the only option to regain voting rights, although not all EU countries allow dual nationality. 

Sue Wilson, who has long campaigned for the UK to stay in the EU, said: “There is only one way to restore the loss of our rights, and that’s to rejoin the single market, rejoin the customs union, and eventually, rejoin the European Union… Until that day, we will continue to be second class citizens whose rights have been diminished for the sake of an ideology.”

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