France activates plan for no-deal Brexit

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe, flanked by French Minister attached to the Foreign Affairs Minister Nathalie Loiseau, right, speaks to medias after a meeting on the preparation of France for Brexit, the Britain’s exit from the European Union, at Hotel Matignon in Paris, on Thursday. — AFP

PARIS — The French government has activated its plans for handling the effects of a no-deal Brexit, which has become “less and less unlikely”, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Thursday.

Speaking after a ministerial meeting called to discuss the British parliament’s rejection of the divorce deal negotiated with the EU, Philippe said: “I have taken the decision to activate the plan for a no-deal Brexit.”

The plan provides for 50 million euros ($56 million) of investment in French ports and airports, “which are obviously the places most affected by the changes needed” in the event of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal.

“In some ports that will be the construction of car parks, in others it will be the establishment of infrastructure for carrying out checks,” Philippe said.

France also plans on recruiting 580 additional customs staff and veterinary inspectors.

The French parliament gave its final approval Thursday to a bill allowing the government to pass five decrees covering preparations for a no-deal Brexit, after senators voted in favor of the text.

Officials fear the absence of an accord would create chaotic scenes on both sides of the Channel.

“Now more than ever we must prepare ourselves for a withdrawal without a deal,” France’s Europe Minister Nathalie Loiseau told senators. “Speeding up our preparations is essential.”

The government has drawn up five decrees, slated for adoption after being vetted by the country’s Council of State.

They cover:

— The residency rights of British citizens in France: They will be allowed remain without a permit for a year after Brexit, provided the French living in Britain can do the same. After that they will need to apply for residency.

— The creation of emergency customs infrastructure.

— Transport links: British truckers will be allowed to continue making deliveries in France, and the Channel Tunnel will continue to operate.

— Safeguards on financial activities that could be jeopardized by Britain losing its “passport” access to EU financial markets.

— Cross-Channel deliveries of defense equipment. — AFP