France launched its contingency plans on Thursday to deal with a potential no-deal Brexit, prime minister Edouard Philippe said during a press conference.
The plan includes €50m (£44m, $57m) of investments to help ports and airports cope with new tariffs and trading terms in the event that the UK leaves the European Union on 29 March without an agreed deal and transition period.
“What’s certain is that the scenario of a no-deal Brexit is less and less unlikely. That’s why… I have decided to trigger the plan for a no-deal Brexit,” said Philippe.
“The plans are ready. Each port, each airport had been tasked with defining the nature of the work needed to adapt their measures to these new challenges,” he said.
France provides a market for about 6% of all British exports in goods and services, while nearly 7% of UK imports come from the country. Total trade between the two sides is in excess of £70bn each year.
But these close trade ties risk being ruptured when the UK leaves the EU without an agreed divorce deal. The move could push the UK into trading on World Trade Organization (WTO) rules, which would involve a range of new border checks and tariffs. Trade between the UK and France is currently frictionless because the countries are part of the EU customs union and single market.
The French government will also unveil plans in February to help fishermen and the fishing sector, said Philippe.
“We want to defend the interests of French fishermen, defend the interests of fishing areas, and companies that take part in this significant economic sector,” he said.
Prime minister Theresa May’s two-year attempt to forge an amicable divorce with the EU was crushed by parliament on Tuesday in the biggest defeat for a British leader in modern history.
May is expected to come back to parliament on Monday with a ‘Plan B’ option and has been speaking with opposition parties about potential paths forward.