So close, so far. On a clear day, from Sangatte beach near Calais one can guess the cliffs of Dover on the other side of the Channel. Only about thirty kilometers separate the United Kingdom from the European continent at this point. But this Friday 1er January is like rewinding an old movie. The British ship which had docked in Europe is finally casting off.
→ ANALYSIS. Brexit, D-Day: in London, a page is finally turned
“A vital link”
After 47 years of living together, the United Kingdom, in the name of sovereignty, leaves the European Union. But at Eurotunnel headquarters, we do not dwell on Brexit. And the little girl, drawn on the entrance to the two tunnels, the work of street art artist Yseult Digan, will continue to look through her binoculars towards the Port of Folkestone on the other side of the Channel where the tunnel on the British side opens. .
Freight must continue to use the tunnel, ” a vital link », Underlines Anne-Laure Descleves, director of communication at Eurotunnel. ” A customer makes an average of 20 to 30,000 crossings per year, 25% of goods pass through the Channel Tunnel for an amount of 140 billion euros per year ”, she continues.
A ferry every 35 to 40 minutes between Calais and Dover
Symbol of the rapprochement between Great Britain and France, the tunnel has adapted to the new conditions posed by Brexit, to continue to ensure in the transport of freight, as well as passengers, “Fluidity and efficiency” as enshrined in the Treaty of Canterbury, signed on February 12, 1986, in the cathedral of the same name.
→ ANALYSIS. Hauts-de-France borders prepare post-Brexit
The stakes are high on both sides of the Channel. But even more for France. Because for the Hauts-de-France region, 5 million trucks pass between the two ports of Dunkirk and Calais and Great Britain. Between Calais and Dover, a ferry leaves every 35 to 40 minutes.
Recruitment of 700 customs officers
This 1er January is therefore observed by everyone on either side of the tunnel, just like in the ports of Calais and Dover. We are on the lookout for the arrival of the first trucks which luckily are much less numerous on the weekend of the first of the year, to which is added the health crisis which has also reduced traffic considerably. ” There has been a lot of preparation to get things going from today. For four years, clients have worked with us to ensure that the flow of traffic is respected ”, adds Eurotunnel’s communications director.
A real challenge because today with Brexit, becoming a third country, the United Kingdom is subject to customs controls with mandatory declarations to enter and leave the goods whereas before products coming or leaving in Great Britain passed freely. A return to the situation before the United Kingdom entered the EU. French customs recruited 700 customs officers, including 250 for the Hauts de France sites, the ports of Calais, Dunkirk and Eurotunnel for a 24/7 on-site presence.
The “smart border”
And to prevent controls from slowing down the flow, customs and Eurotunnel have jointly created the “smart border”, a “smart border”, where data for the transport of goods is digitized upstream sent to the port in France as well as in France. Britain.
” If they are anticipated, there will be no problem, it will suffice to flash the barcode of the truck », Adds Gilbert Beltran, regional customs director for Dunkirk. Otherwise, the trucks will have to stop and complete the formalities on site with delay for delivery.
For tourists too there will be changes. French people returning from Great Britain will no longer be able to bring back food of animal origin, such as cheddar cheese, and if they make purchases above 430 €, they will have to pay national taxes.
If the “smart border” saves the transport of goods and should limit the damage to the economy between the United Kingdom and Europe, it is not sure that all actors share the enthusiasm of Boris Johnson, craftsman of the Brexit which declared after the signing of the agreement with the EU: ” This is not the end ” But ” the start of a wonderful relationship between the UK and our friends and partners in the European Union “.