Potential Brexit Delay Unlikely To Stop French Customs Agents' Strike - UNSA Trade Union

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 Potential Brexit Delay Unlikely to Stop French Customs Agents' Strike - UNSA Trade Union

A possible extension to the process of the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union will not make French customs officers remove their demands for additional staff and equipment in the face of what they call is the lack of preparedness for Brexit, Vincent Thomazo, the secretary general of the UNSA Douanes trade union, told Sputnik

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 22nd March, 2019) A possible extension to the process of the United Kingdom's withdrawal from the European Union will not make French customs officers remove their demands for additional staff and equipment in the face of what they call is the lack of preparedness for Brexit, Vincent Thomazo, the secretary general of the UNSA Douanes trade union, told Sputnik.

French customs officers in the ports of Calais and Dunkirk started their work-to-rule strike on March 4, which caused major disruption around Calais. They demand higher pay and additional personnel to be able to deal with the consequences of Brexit, including more onerous border controls. Last week, the customs workers reportedly rejected an offer of 14 million Euros (roughly $16 million) from the government, saying it was not enough.

On Wednesday, UK Prime Minister Theresa May wrote to European Council President Donald Tusk requesting a Brexit extension until June 30. According to Thomazo, a delay to Brexit will not make the customs workers drop their demands for the French government.

"Inter-trade union calls on the strike to continue, because the [customs] officers want to carry on, even though the administration puts a great pressure on them ... The Brexit postponement changes nothing. The demand of more means and more personnel remains, it only gives the government more time to grant it," Thomazo said.

He noted that the situation in Calais was getting more intense since the administration was putting "great pressure" on customs officers, including threats to take disciplinary action and authorizing police intervention.

CURRENT MEANS AVAILABLE ARE NOT ENOUGH TO COPE WITH BREXIT DEMANDS

After Brexit, the border between France and the United Kingdom will be re-established, which means there will be extra work for customs officers, Thomazo noted.

"Brexit means reestablishing of the border. With all the goods, with customs formalities, transport and persons' control - and there is a very significant commercial traffic between the UK and France ... there is an enormous amount of controlling to perform. And with the existing means it's delusional to think that we will be able to do that," he stressed.

According to Thomazo, the fact that the authorities were implementing a so-called "low-cost" Brexit without extra personnel or extra funding caused "frustration" among custom officers.

INCREASED TERRORIST THREAT ANOTHER CAUSE OF CONCERN

Other than Brexit, customs workers want the authorities to recognize all the challenges and dangers they face at work, including terrorist threat.

"We demand an increase of our purchasing power, because custom officers, as nearly all other professions ... are in difficulty, they demand revalorization and recognition of their profession in terms of its complexity and dangers that it carries. It's a profession that is becoming increasingly complicated and dangerous, notably this is related to terrorist acts and inaction in fighting terrorism, we cannot deny that," UNSA secretary general pointed out.

Last week, Eurostar high-speed railway service announced delays and cancellations in Paris due to the strike by the French customs officials.

Several EU leaders have indicated they would be open to a short technical extension to a March 29 Brexit deadline, but only if the UK parliament passed the withdrawal deal. French President Emmanuel Macron said a no-deal scenario was very likely if the UK House of Commons rejected the agreement. The parliament has already voted against the deal twice.