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Normandy chief warns of Brexit impact on ports

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Normandy chief warns of Brexit impact on ports
The refinery at the harbour of Port-Jerome-sur-Seine in Normandy. Photo: AFP
09:02 CET+01:00
The head of France's Normandy region has warned of the impact Brexit could have on its ports, which rely heavily on cross-Channel trade, saying they are not fully prepared for new customs checks.
Normandy council president Herve Morin said 40 percent of heavy goods vehicles arriving at the ports will be subject to veterinary and plant health controls after the end of planned Brexit transition period in 2020. 
   
Morin said he was worried about the consequences that such controls could have on the flow of trucks going to and from Britain by ferry across the Channel.
   
Each year, 100,000 trucks go through Caen, 50,000 through Cherbourg, 30,000 through Le Havre and 10,000 through Dieppe.
   
"Our major concern is on the degree of preparation," Morin said in London, during a two-day visit to Britain. "It is probably not enough with regards to animal health controls. The customs posts are much better prepared."
 
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Britain's European Union withdrawal agreement -- set to be sealed at a summit in Brussels on Sunday -- should enable a transition period from Brexit day on March 29, 2019 until the end of 2020.
 
The transition should allow businesses and the authorities time to adjust to new arrangements between Britain and the EU.
   
Morin said he was not entirely reassured by the transition period.
   
"It gives us a year and a half more, but a year and a half is very short. There will have to be a big adaptation push," he said.
   
The implementation of a transition period depends on British lawmakers ratifying the withdrawal agreement -- something which many observers say at this stage seems unlikely.
 
"We must not hide from it: in case of a hard Brexit, on March 30 we are in for a very difficult time," Morin told AFP.
   
Morin said he was also worried about the cost of reconfiguring the ports and installing new checkpoints, which will be "in the tens of millions of euros".
   
On fishing, he called for an agreement to be struck "quickly".
   
The issue of European access to British waters is still being hotly debated between London and Brussels.
 
"Given the sensitivity of the subject, it's good that soon we can find the terms of an agreement to prevent the recurrence of incidents between the British and French fishing fleets," he said, referring to the scallop wars earlier this year that saw clashes between rival trawlers.
 
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