Meeting with French Customs
Ms Bastidon presented FTA’s 10 points for smooth customs borders, which was well received. Ms Bellegy highlighted that French customs would like the UK to ratify the Common Transit Convention at the earliest opportunity, as it will add flexibility and fluidity to post-Brexit customs processes. On a positive note she added that several other ideas contained in FTA’s paper have been considered as possible options by the EU-27 in their internal workshops, such as a possible security and safety waiver for the UK, or a mutual recognition agreement for AEO (Authorised Economic Operator) accreditation.
On the other hand, Ms Bellegy confirmed that the options presented in the August 2017 UK Government customs paper had not been received positively by representatives from the 27 remaining member states, who rejected the idea described as the customs partnership, considered largely incompatible with the Union Customs Code. The highly streamlined arrangements option was viewed more positively, and the 27 thought that several proposals made sense, although not for Ireland, as none of the proposals would completely remove the need for a hard border. She insisted that the absence of checks could not simply be based on trust, but needed to be grounded in law.
Ms Bellegy was deeply interested in FTA’s recent visit to the ports of Calais and Dunkirk, and a big part of the discussion focused on the impact of delays at the borders, infrastructure-related adaptations, as well as IT systems’ adaptations.
She was surprised to learn that, in the UK alone, there would be around 185,000 companies that would be new to customs formalities, and recognised that a big challenge would be to reach out to these companies so that they might be ready when needed. She confirmed that French customs has recruited over 100 new agents, due to be operational this coming September; and the plan is that an additional 200 new recruits will be in place in time for Brexit (March 2019). Most of these agents will be deployed along the coast, many in the Hauts-de-France region (i.e. Calais/Dunkirk/Eurotunnel). The goal is to have in total over 700 new officials working by the end of 2020, who will be recruited to only cope with the consequences of Brexit.
For more information, or if members would like to have their practical questions presented to French customs, please contact Pauline Bastidon.