France launches plan for no-deal Brexit

France’s government is kicking off a €50 million plan to prepare for the increasingly likely possibility that Britain will leave the European Union on March 29 without a plan.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the government will start hiring 600 extra government employees, including customs agents to handle cross-border trade and security.

He said the plan also includes money for airports and ports, which are “most concerned” by the prospect of a so-called hard Brexit.

Mr Philippe said “we strongly believe” Britain will leave with no exit deal, after the British Parliament this week overwhelmingly rejected a divorce agreement worked out with the EU.

France’s parliament approved a special law this week allowing for the government to impose emergency measures to deal with a no-deal Brexit.

The move comes as the EU’s Brexit negotiator said he hoped Prime Minister Theresa May’s consultations with national political leaders can help break the deadlock over the terms of the UK’s departure from the EU and herald “a new stage” in Brexit negotiations.

Michel Barnier said that “getting an agreement is in everybody’s interest” and that “something has to change” to secure a divorce deal.

Mr Barnier told Portuguese politicians during a visit to Lisbon that in the absence of an agreement, negotiations between the UK and EU on contingency measures to prevent the breakdown of common infrastructure will not take place in “a climate of confidence”.

He said he has not spoken about the possibility of postponing Brexit because the March 29 departure date was chosen by Britain and is written into UK law.

Mr Barnier said the UK’s so-called red lines on how much ground it is willing to give in negotiations for its departure from the EU have “shut doors” to a broader agreement.

He said of the EU’s negotiating position: “If (the red lines) change, we’ll change.”

Mr Barnier said the Withdrawal Agreement is “balanced, respectful”, adding that the EU had not reached such an “ambitious” agreement with any other non-EU country.



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