France has triggered a contingency plan for a “hard Brexit,” Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said on Thursday.
After a cabinet meeting the wake of Theresa May’s parliamentary defeat on her EU divorce deal, Philippe said that it was getting more likely that that the UK would leave the bloc with no deal.
The contingency plan includes 50m euros ($57m) of investments to help ports and airports cope.
The strategy will also see France “defend the interests of French fishermen,” Philippe told a press conference the meeting.
Fishermen and businesses engaged in the fishing sector are likely to be strongly affected by a no-deal Brexit and tensions between French and British fisherman have remained high since last August’s so-called ‘scallop wars’, which saw fisherman clash in the English Channel in a battle over scallops.
May’s two-year attempt to forge an amicable deal was crushed by MPs on Tuesday in the biggest parliamentary defeat for a British leader in modern history. The blow sparked governments across Europe to ramp up preparations for a no-deal Brexit.
Announcing the plan had been triggered, Philippe said: “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.”
“Today, during a meeting with all concerned ministers gathered around me, I’ve taken the decision to trigger the plan related to a no-deal Brexit, or a hard Brexit as we sometimes say.”
He added: “To cope with a no-deal Brexit, we have made a decision to launch a 50-million-euro investment plan for French ports and airports which are obviously the areas most affected by the changes that have to be brought about, taking into account a hard Brexit.
“This 50-million-euro investment will be launched in the coming days. 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.
“Our objective is both to respect our obligations, to ensure that the life of our fellow citizens and to some respect, the life of British citizens in France, is as unaffected as possible, and that they are able to live in all security and fluidity.”
The PM said specific measures were being put in place to defend the interests of French fisherman.
“Fishing, the fishermen’s world, all industries related to the processing of fishing products are sectors most susceptible to be strongly affected by this no-deal withdrawal, which the British seem decided to head towards,” he added.
“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. We have thus put in place preparations for specific measures which we will be communicating over the course of the month of February.”
The French Senate is due to complete the adoption of a bill allowing the government to take emergency measures by decree if necessary after March 30 in the event Britain leaves without a deal.
The legislation was approved by the lower National Assembly on Wednesday and is due to be approved by the Senate later on Thursday.