French companies must prepare for risk of no EU-UK trade agreement: Minister

Paris, Sep 9 (IANS) French companies need to be prepared for the risk of no trade agreement between the European Union (EU) and the United Kingdom (UK), as the two sides are conducting the eighth round of discussions over new trade arrangements, French Minister Delegate for Foreign Trade and Economic Attractiveness Franck Riester said on Wednesday.

“In case of no-deal, we must prepare for the consequences which will be difficult,” Riester told BFMTV Business. He added that the French government was working on “a whole plan of action, border management and product control” to help domestic companies, ports and airports cope with hard Brexit.

France has already triggered a plan to mitigate difficulties linked with a hard Brexit. It included an investment of 50 million euros (58.9 million US dollars) in ports and airports.

Britain ended its EU membership in January this year, but is still following EU rules during the transition period until December 31 of 2020 to allow both sides to bridge differences on the post-Brexit relationship, and forge a permanent future trade deal. During this period, Britain would have to pay into EU funds but have no say in laws imposed by Brussels, Xinhua news agency reported.

On Tuesday, European and British negotiators launched a new round of talks in an attempt to seal an agreement before the European Union summit on October 15-16. Both sides hope to start implementing the new deal from January 2021.

“We need to make sure that our British partners respect their commitments,” Riester said.

On Monday , British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he wanted a post-Brexit trade deal agreed with EU by an Oct. 15 deadline, warning that a failure of that could mean London ending its EU membership with no deal.

Britain’s chief Brexit negotiator David Frost called for realism from the EU side before the talks started in London on Tuesday, insisting there was still time for the two sides to agree on a post-Brexit trade deal.

Frost has declared that this week is make-or-break for trade talks with the EU if the UK is to avoid leaving the transition period with no deal, Sky News reported.