European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said the bloc is prepared but experts have cast doubt on the eurocrat’s claims. Pieter Cleppe, of the Open Europe think tank, has warned the countries with the closest ties to Britain will be worst hit. Ireland, the Netherlands, France, Germany and Belgium have most at stake on the Continent and have attempt to protect themselves from the cliff edge if there is a hard Brexit on April 12.
Mr Cleppe said: “The UK’s neighbouring countries haven’t hired the sufficient number of customs staff or veterinary inspectors needed in case of a no deal.
“Measures have been decided to mitigate the worst of the damage but these measures are all temporary and unilateral, whereas actual agreements with the UK are needed, for example to prevent disruption in aviation or to protect supply chains of big manufacturers. Also the EU budget will feel the strain in case the UK leaves without a deal, which will also affect national budgets of member states that are net beneficiaries of EU funds.”
German business has warned about the impact to manufacturing supply chains, crucial to the country’s motor vehicle industry.
So much so, economy minister Peter Altmaier said the best Brexit option for Germany would see Britain remain in the customs union.
Eric Schweitzer, head of the Association of German Chambers of Commerce and Industry, warned “the chaos is absolute” in a no deal.
He said companies are “shaking their heads” at the decision and that “Britain and Europe are stumbling toward an unregulated withdrawal from the EU”.
“There’s a threat in just a few days of a substantial Brexit bureaucracy and the demolition of supply chains involving the United Kingdom,” he added.
And this could cost German firms “many billions of euros each year in tariffs”.
The Belgian government has been hiring extra customs staff, but leading customs official have warned that no deal preparations have still been insufficient.
Companies have been warned to minimise imports and exports to the UK as a temporary measure in the build up to Brexit day.
The country’s largest port, Zeebrugge, is expecting huge queues because 10 percent of lorries carry the the correct paperwork.
Paris has made a genuine effort to prepare for a hard Brexit, hiring 740 extra customs and veterinary inspectors and spending millions to improve airport and port security measures.
But Medef, France’s largest employment federation, has claimed there I’ll be “absolute chaos in Calais and other ports which export goods to the UK”.
In recent weeks, industrial actions by the trade unions of customs personnel, has mimicked the effect of hard Brexit.
Customs officers carried out vehicle checks and requested registration documents, resulting in two weeks of lengthy tailbacks for trucks waiting to cross to Britain.
Dublin has the most at stake, of the remaining EU27, in the Brexit process.
Ireland could lose as much as 4 percent of its GDP if Britain leaves the bloc without a deal.
There are also significant risks of violence returning to the border region as a peace agreement breaks down with a hard border.
There are reports that the Irish government is planning to deploy uniformed police officers to the border in the event of no deal.
Ireland has hired around a 1,000 new customs officials but the are fears they will not all be in place this spring.
And If the UK implements its no deal plan to embark on considerable tariff cuts, non-European producers may out-compete Irish products from shelves in UK shops.
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