The French government has activated its plans for handling the effects of a no-deal Brexit, which has become "less and less unlikely", Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said Thursday.
Speaking after a ministerial meeting called to discuss the British parliament's rejection of the divorce deal negotiated with the EU, Philippe said: "I have taken the decision to activate the plan for a no-deal Brexit."
The plan provides for 50 million euros ($56 million) of investment in French ports and airports, "which are obviously the places most affected by the changes needed" in the event of Britain crashing out of the EU without a deal.
"In some ports that will be the construction of car parks, in others it will be the establishment of infrastructure for carrying out checks," Philippe said.
France also plans on recruiting 580 additional customs staff and veterinary inspectors.
The French parliament is expected to complete the adoption of a bill Thursday allowing the government to pass five decrees covering preparations for a no-deal Brexit, which could create chaotic scenes on both sides of the Channel.
"We want to be ready to protect the interests of our citizens," Philippe said.
"Our objective is at the same time to respect our obligations, to make sure that the lives of our citizens and, in a way, British citizens living in France are impacted as little as possible," he added.
The government has drawn up five decrees, slated for adoption after being vetted by the country's Council of State.
- The residency rights of British citizens in France: They will be allowed remain without a permit for a year after Brexit, provided the French living in Britain can do the same. After that they will need to apply for residency.
- The creation of emergency customs infrastructure.
- Transport links: British truckers will be allowed to continue making deliveries in France, and the Channel Tunnel will continue to operate.
- Safeguards on financial activities that could be jeopardised by Britain losing its "passport" access to EU financial markets.
- Cross-Channel deliveries of defence equipment.
Last month the French government launched a Brexit information site: www.brexit.gouv.fr