France, Netherlands brace for hard Brexit

ANDY RAIN

Lorries disembark from ferries in Dover, south east of London, Britain, 04 August 2015.

France, Netherlands brace for hard Brexit


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Logistics and the processing of residence permits for UK expatriates are the two main concerns for several EU member states as the scenario of a disorderly Brexit is becoming more likely.

When it comes to border checks, Ireland will be diverting its trade directly to EU ports, while trade with the UK will become more cumbersome due to duties, passport, and quality controls. Even with the application of technology-intensive solutions at the border, there is a need for serious upgrades in port facilities across the Channel, because according to World Trade Organisation rules if you give preferential arrangements to a third country outside a customs union, you must apply it worldwide under the most favoured nation rule.

As for citizenship, there are EU member states that do not allow for dual citizenship.

Border Control

French ports must prepare for a hard Brexit scenario, Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said on Saturday.

A no-deal Brexit would mean long delays in the processing of traveller’s visas and long queues for tracks, which may be problematic for food exports and imports.

According to a government study published by Le Monde on Saturday, hundreds of customs staff will need to be hired to deal with border controls. Each year, an estimated 32 million people and 4.2 million heavy goods and vehicles cross the Channel ports from the ports of Calais and Dunkirk, as well as the Eurostar rail station in Lille.

As the UK has opted out of the Schengen zone, there are already passport controls in place. However, queues are expected to get longer as UK citizens will require visas to travel the EU and EU citizens to travel to the UK.

Moreover, new infrastructure will be needed to ensure sanitary and phytosanitary controls for agricultural goods and animals.

Public Accounts Minister Gérald Darmanin estimates that 700 customs officials will need to be hired over the next year.

For a number of industrial manufacturers, the threatened backlog at the border is posing significant challenges as they do not have storage infrastructure. Toyota and BMW Mini are planning to bring forward factory closures in April 2019, to deal with what may be severe disruptions in the supply chains.

UK Expatriates in the Netherlands

Dutch ports, especially Rotterdam, appear better prepared for Brexit than even the UK. Training of personnel is well underway since April while the main concern is the tens of thousands of companies that are not familiar with the processes of exporting outside the EU.

But, perhaps one of the biggest difficulties are UK nationals, as Dutch citizenship has until recently been mutually exclusive to holding another passport.  The Netherlands is reviewing its citizenship laws to make its citizenship fraework more flexible, precisely to accomodate UK nationals. Similar issues are faced by Germany.

In a study published in the Netherlands by the DutchNew.nl news platform, it appears that 39% of UK nationals have not started preparing for their residence regularization.

Most cite a lack of clarity for their future status, while only 31% have checked on the website of Dutch immigration for information. Only 15% have applied for a residence permit.

While 10% have applied for Dutch citizenship, this may increase as the Netherlands is moving to relax legislation on dual citizenship in preparation for Brexit. 41% would not want to give up the British passport, while 20% have not lived long enough in the Netherlands to qualify.

The overwhelming majority of UK citizens in the Netherlands (77%) fear they will soon lose their ability to travel freely across the EU and over half (54%) fear reduced access to pension and welfare rights.

The Dutch immigration service has held focus groups with UK nationals in the Netherlands and has set up a special Brexit page on its website.

There are over 1,2 million UK citizens living in the EU, of whom approximately 90,000 reside in the Netherlands. Expatriates were not given the chance to vote in the EU membership referendum of 2016.

 

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