CALAIS, France (Reuters) -Now that Britain has finally completed its exit from the European Union, the main challenge for business in the French port of Calais is the coronavirus pandemic, the port head said on Friday.
Port chief Jean-Marc Puissesseau was speaking as the first ferry transporting vehicles arrived from Dover to Calais, France’s busiest road freight port, after Britain left the bloc at 11 p.m. (2300 GMT) London time on Thursday.
Calais-Dover is the shortest sea route between Britain and the EU – just 23 miles (37 km) – and Calais handles some 2 million trucks per year.
“What we really hope for is to soon put the coronavirus crisis behind us, to have all the possible vaccines and for normal life to return,” Puissesseau told reporters, adding the health crisis would cost the port 30 million euros in lost revenue in 2020.
Puissesseau said that having prepared for Brexit for three years, Calais was ready for the return of customs formalities on trade moving between Britain and the European Union.
“Brexit is not synonymous with a snarling up of traffic but everyone must do their job. We are relieved because we know how we will work,” he said.
British and European businesses have warned of mayhem at the border as they learn to navigate red tape and paperwork that threatens to impede the smooth flow of nearly 1 trillion euros in annual trade.
But the disruption would have been worse if Britain and the EU had not reached a last-minute trade agreement on Dec. 24. Until Thursday’s final departure, Britain had been in a transition period that lasted 11 months after it formally left the bloc on Jan. 31.
(Reporting by Ardee Napolitano and Dominique VidalonEditing by Frances Kerry)