Potential Brexit Delay Unlikely To Stop French Customs Agents’ Strike

March 22: A possible extension to the process of the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union will not make French customs officers remove their demands for additional staff and equipment in the face of what they call is the lack of preparedness for Brexit, Vincent Thomazo, the secretary general of the UNSA Douanes trade union, told international media.

French customs officers in the ports of Calais and Dunkirk started their work-to-rule strike on March 4, which caused major disruption around Calais. They demand higher pay and additional personnel to be able to deal with the consequences of Brexit, including more onerous border controls. Last week, the customs workers reportedly rejected an offer of 14 million Euros (roughly $16 million) from the government, saying it was not enough.

On Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk requesting a Brexit extension until June 30. According to Thomazo, a delay to Brexit will not make the customs workers drop their demands for the French government.

“Inter-trade union calls on the strike to continue, because the [customs] officers want to carry on, even though the administration puts a great pressure on them … The Brexit postponement changes nothing. The demand of more means and more personnel remains, it only gives the governmentmore time to grant it,” Thomazo said.

He noted that the situation in Calais was getting more intense since the administration was putting “great pressure” on customs officers, including threats to take disciplinary action and authorizing police intervention.

After Brexit, the border between France and the United Kingdom will be re-established, which means there will be extra work for customs officers, Thomazo noted.

“Brexit means reestablishing of the border. With all the goods, with customs formalities, transport and persons’ control – and there is a very significant commercial traffic between the UK and France… there is an enormous amount of controlling to perform. And with the existing means it’s delusional to think that we will be able to do that,” he stressed.

According to Thomazo, the fact that the authorities were implementing a so-called “low-cost” Brexit without extra personnel or extra funding caused “frustration” among custom officers.

Source: Urdu Point

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