CALAIS, (France): Cross-Channel freight traffic between Britain and France was moving smoothly on Friday in the first hours after London’s exit from the EU customs union, dispelling fears of immediate snarl-ups in the wake of the historic change.
Hundreds of lorries had crossed into France and left the country for the United Kingdom through the Channel Tunnel while dozens more were carried on ferries, with no reports of any major hold-ups. Almost 200 lorries passed through the tunnel after Britain formally left the EU customs union and single market at midnight in the final act of its exit from the European Union, operator Getlink said.
The first ferry to set sail for France under the new arrangements, The Pride of Kent of P&O Ferries, meanwhile docked in Calais mid-morning. “The traffic was strong enough for an exceptional and historic night, everything went well,” a spokesperson for Getlink told AFP. “All the trucks completed the formalities” required by the fact Britain is no longer part of the EU customs union. “None of the lorries were sent back,” the spokesperson said.
French officials have insisted that disruption at the frontier in Calais in northern France is being minimised by a so-called “smart border”. Hauliers are required to enter information about their freight online in advance with only a rapid scan needed at the border.
Once this is done the trucks can either be waved through with a green light or subjected to extra checks if given an orange one.
Officials also say that British businesses have also stockpiled for January, which is also a relatively quiet month with little activity after Christmas.
The first vehicle to pass through heading for Britain was a heavy goods vehicle from Romania carrying post and parcels, which was symbolically given the go-ahead by Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart.
“I am very happy, it is a privilege for me,” said its driver Toma Moise, 62.
Bouchart, who pressed the button allowing the lorry to leave, said it was a “historic moment” adding that going back to customs checks after the UK’s near half century of EU membership “will have consequences whose range we don’t yet know”.