Brexit: France to invest €50m in ports and airports to prepare for no-deal outcome, prime minister says

Édouard Philippe says his government now ‘strongly believes’ that Britain will leave EU without divorce agreement

Colin Drury
Thursday 17 January 2019 13:03
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Emmanuel Macron doubts EU will renegotiate Brexit deal: 'The first losers of this are the British people'

France has announced it is to invest €50m (£44.3m) in its ports and airports to prepare the country in case of a no-deal Brexit.

Édouard Philippe, the French prime minister, announced the unexpected plan after a meeting with his ministers in Paris on Thursday morning.

He said he “strongly believed” that the UK would now leave the EU without a deal, following the British parliament’s rejection of a proposed divorce agreement this week.

“What’s certain is that the scenario of a no-deal Brexit is less and less unlikely,” he told reporters. “That’s why ... I have decided to trigger the plan for a no-deal Brexit.”

He said the proposals would include money for airports and ports that are “most concerned” by the prospect of Britain’s withdrawal.

Among measures to be taken will be the hiring of 600 new staff, including customs officers and veterinary controllers, and preparing new parking areas and temporary buildings at ports.

“We want to be ready so that the interests of our citizens can be preserved,” added Mr Philippe.

The announcement follows the French parliament approving a special law earlier this week that allows for the government to impose emergency measures to deal with a no-deal Brexit.

It comes after the country’s president, Emmanuel Macron, gave a scathing assesment of the UK’s approach to leaving the EU and hit out at politicians who had “lied” during the referendum campaign.

Speaking at a town hall meeting in Normandy, he said: “It’s a referendum that has been manipulated, manipulated from outside by a lot of what we call fake news, where everything and anything was said and now they are being told, ‘Figure it out yourselves’.

“Result: it is not true. We (the Leave campaign) have lied to the people and what they (the public) have chosen is not possible.

“Good luck to the representatives of the nation who has to implement a thing which doesn’t exist and has to explain to the people: you have voted on a thing, we lied to you.”

And he added: “I can tell you very solemnly that in the framework of this future relationship, the interests of French fishing will be defended and we will have to negotiate a transition period with them anyway because the British can’t afford not to have a plane taking off or landing in their country and 70 per cent of their supermarket supplies comes from continental Europe.”

Meanwhile, in Lisbon, the EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier said he hoped Theresa May proposed consultations with Westminster’s other political leaders to help break the deadlock over the terms of the proposed exit deal.

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He told Portugal’s parliment on Thursday that “getting an agreement is in everybody’s interest” but that “something has to change” to secure such a deal.

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