PARIS WEATHER

‘Willingness and urgency’ to resolve Brexit trade issues: UK ambassador to France

We’re now just over a fortnight into the new arrangements between the United Kingdom and the European Union. Their combined half a billion citizens are getting used to things post-Brexit, to varying degrees. We’ve seen major European freight handlers refusing to take goods to the UK. There are also shoppers in various countries unable to find certain foodstuffs: some of this due to Covid-19 restrictions, some due to Brexit. There have also been some Brits unable to reach their second homes in the EU. 

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Even a British lorry driver became famous on the internet when he had his ham sandwiches confiscated in the Netherlands under new customs regulations. 

So how much is this down to teething problems and how much of it is just what Europeans have to get used to? 

We speak to the Westminster government’s “man in Paris”: Ed Llewellyn, the British ambassador to France and Monaco. 

On the Covid-19 travel restrictions between the UK and France, he says: “All governments, and certainly the French and British governments, are facing very difficult situations together. The number of infections remains high. This is an extremely difficult situation for every government.”

On the new paperwork and non-tariff trade barriers causing problems for exporters in the UK and the EU, Lord Llewellyn tells us: “What we’re seeing here is the new procedures that have come into place, getting used to those procedures and understanding them.These are individual difficulties that need to be worked through as they come up.”

Regarding the UK government’s decision not to extend the Brexit transition period despite the late-running talks and the pandemic, the ambassador says: “The [UK] government was clear about that throughout […] We have clarity with this agreement in place. […] As we encounter these difficulties there’s great willingness and urgency to resolve them on both sides.”

Finally, on the new post-Brexit security arrangements and the loss of real-time access to police databases for UK and EU security services, he tells us: “Between Britain and France our cooperation is intense and our intelligence agencies and security forces work night and day to protect our people, and they’ll carry on doing that after our exit from the EU just as they did before.”

Produced by Isabelle Romero and Perrine Desplats

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