Ports of Dover and Calais ready to face Brexit

On both sides of the Channel, the authorities ensure that goods will continue to circulate after the UK's exit from the EU. And this despite the paperwork.

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In the Dover Harbor Control Room, October 11th. SIMON DAWSON / REUTERS

From the control room overlooking the harbor of Dover (United Kingdom), the overview allows to admire the incessant ongoing logistic ballet.

On the left, the trucks appear one after the other, stopping only for passport control. At the quay, a ferry has just arrived from Calais (Pas-de-Calais) and the heavyweights it transports land in their turn. Barely forty minutes later, the ship returns to France, loaded with 150 new trucks.

On peak days, more than 10,000 vehicles – up to ten per minute – pass through this narrow strip of land wedged between the sea and the famous white cliffs.

The place is the epicenter of British commerce: 17% of UK exports and imports pass here. With the addition of the neighboring Channel Tunnel, the proportion reaches 30%. The extreme efficiency of the process, without any customs control since the creation of the single market in 1993, makes it the preferred place of passage for perishable products, agri-food in mind.

A grain of fatal sand

For three years, opponents of the Brexit sound the alarm: Suddenly requiring customs declarations, the exit of the European Union (EU) would introduce a grain of sand fatal in this beautiful mechanics.

Even if an agreement is reached at the EU summit on Thursday 17 and Friday 18 October, and even if it is ratified by the British Parliament – which remains very uncertain – it would only make the fateful date back: the introduction of rights Customs is expected at the end of the transition period, end of 2020.

Dover's port is running at a tense pace, and an additional two minutes of truck checks would cause a 46-kilometer traffic jam, according to researchers at Imperial College London. The logistic ballet would come to a standstill, hence the warnings of possible future shortages in the country.

On both sides of the Channel, the ports and authorities are cautious but do not believe in this disaster scenario.

" We are ready ", Doug Bannister, port manager at Dover, says. Logistics companies, who have looked closely at the problem, seem to believe it. "There can of course be trucks that land on the first day of Brexit without the necessary documents," acknowledges Andrew Baxter, director of Europa Worldwide, a major carrier. And to continue:


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