February 11, 2020 / 4:43 PM / 7 days ago

France to be vigilant on British post-Brexit freeports - minister

FILE PHOTO: French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian leaves the Elysee Palace following the weekly cabinet meeting in Paris, France, October 21, 2019. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - France will be watching carefully for any sign of unfair competition from Britain if it goes ahead with plans to set up freeports after Brexit, French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said on Tuesday.

Britain formally left the EU on Jan. 31 but remains subject to EU laws and regulations during a transition period due to last until the end of this year.

The British government said on Sunday it planned to announce the location of up to 10 post-Brexit freeports, or free trade zones, by the end of this year with the hope that they can begin operating in 2021.

“We will be extremely vigilant to prevent any form of unfair competition (from the freeports), whatever the matter, and if we need time to negotiate, we will take it”, Le Drian told the French parliament in response to a lawmaker’s question.

Freeports are areas where imported goods can be held or processed free of customs duties before being exported again. They can also be used to import raw materials and make finished goods for export.

Le Drian said France would work closely with the European Commission on the matter.

Britain wants to negotiate a free trade deal with the EU before the end of the transition period but the negotiations are expected to be tough and complex.

Reporting by Marine Pennetier; Writing by Matthieu Protard; Editing by Gareth Jones

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