Brexit: ‘The French government is now preparing for a no-deal’

France's budget minister said the French government is now getting ready for the "worst-case scenario" when it comes to Britain's departure from the EU. In other words Paris is hastily preparing for no deal but time is running out.

Brexit: 'The French government is now preparing for a no-deal'
Photo: AFP

Minister Gerald Darmanin visited Calais on Monday to try to ease the growing concerns in northern France about the impact of Britain leaving the EU without an agreement.

Darmanin made it clear that this was now the scenario that the French government was getting ready to face.

“Right now the prime minister is asking the government to prepare for the worst case scenario – the “no-deal, so as if there was no transition period and no agreement,” Darmanin told France Blue Nord radio.

“The worst case scenario would leave no legal links between the EU and the UK so there would be a need to implement the necessary laws, notably in the Channel Tunnel,” he said.

“We must prepare for the worst and that is from March 29th, there is no legal relationship with the UK.”

At the end of August the French PM Edouard Philippe told his ministers to come up with contingency plans in the event of a no-deal Brexit and that included making sure Brits in France could remain.

Philippe also asked Darmanin who is in charge of customs to come up with a plan to ensure “the greatest fluidity of border controls” when the UK leaves the EU.

Concern is growing in northern France particularly in Calais about the potential chaos at the ports if Britain leaves the EU without an amicable divorce settlement.

Michel Lalande, the prefect of the Hauts-de-France region which includes Calais, warned the French government that an extra 250 border police and 195 customs officers would have to be recruited immediately to help officials cope with the chaos that would result from a no-deal Brexit.

Lalande said regional authorities were working on a “crisis management plan” to try to limit the potential chaos of Britain leaving the EU on March 29th without a deal.

Darmanin said he was preparing customs authorities for the worst case scenario so they would be ready to carry out extra checks the day after Brexit, but he said some 700 extra officers would be employed over the next three years.

The minister told Les Echos newspaper the port of Calais and the Eurotunnel terminal would have to be adapted so customs checks can be carried out on goods coming across the Channel.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.