Eurotunnel Says It’s Ready for a Worst-Case, Hard Brexit

(Bloomberg) -- Eurotunnel, the operator of the tunnel under the Channel that links the U.K. to Europe, says it stands ready for a hard Brexit.

With the vote Tuesday in the U.K. parliament raising the possibility of Britain crashing out of the European Union on March 29, companies like Getlink, Eurotunnel’s parent, are beginning to pull out their plans for the most extreme outcome.

“Eurotunnel has been actively preparing for all possibilities for the last two years, including the worst-case scenario,” Romain Dufour, a spokesman for Getlink, said in a phone interview. “Measures have been decided, works are ongoing on the French side.”

A lot is at stake. Every year, the group carries more than 20 million passengers, 1.6 million trucks, 2.6 million cars, 25 percent of the trade in goods and 1.7 billion ton-kilometres of freight between the U.K. and continental Europe.

Custom Checks

The impact of a hard Brexit on the transport system -- especially goods movements between Dover in the U.K. and Calais, 25 miles away across the English Channel in France, is likely to be dramatic. Currently, this happens with minimal delay. But customs checks would risk long road backups.

To prepare for the new trade regime, Getlink is increasing the size of its French terminal by three hectares, allowing more trucks to park while they wait for sanitary and customs inspections. Prefab buildings are already being installed to accommodate more French customs and sanitary officers, before permanent ones are built.

“We will be ready as soon as Mar. 29,” Dufour said.

The group is banking on the U.K. joining the Common Transit Convention, which is expected to ease clearance of traffic into the EU, thus preventing or at least minimizing any clogging at the Calais terminal, Dufour said.

The convention counts Switzerland, Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein as well as Serbia and the Republic of Macedonia among its signatories. It allows freight transport companies to pre-declare truck routes, the goods they’re carrying, the identification of drivers and other regulatory documents on duties and taxes before the vehicles reach European borders.

“This means customs checks will be reduced for U.K. businesses going through this process,” Dufour said. “Hard Brexit or not, there will be additional checks, there is no doubt about that.”

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