February 1, 2019 / 12:12 PM / 6 months ago

Unprepared companies face serious problems after no deal Brexit: Dutch PM Rutte

AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - Dutch companies could face serious problems if they don’t prepare for a no-deal Brexit, Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said on Friday.

FILE PHOTO: British Prime Minister Theresa May is welcomed by Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte ahead of a meeting in the Hague, the Netherlands, December 11, 2018. REUTERS/Piroschka van de Wouw/File Photo

“Companies should not be naive and count on things to work out alright,” Rutte said at his weekly news conference. “If March 29 comes without a deal, unprepared companies will have a serious problem.”

The Netherlands expects to incur 2.3 billion euros ($2.6 billion) in direct costs by 2023 if, as seems possible, Britain leaves the EU next month with no transition agreement to cushion the shock and smooth trade.

In a sign of mounting urgency, the Dutch customs office is mailing out more than 70,000 letters warning companies that do business in Britain that time is running out.

“They will get a letter tomorrow telling them it’s high time to get ready,” said a spokesman. “A sense of urgency is gradually sinking in, but a lot of small and medium-sized companies are not ready.”

About 35,000 Dutch companies have no experience in customs procedures, while just 18 percent of businesses said in a recent government poll they are ready for Brexit.

Nearly 950 customs officials are being hired in the Netherlands to handle the extra work arising from Brexit, most of them to work at the port of Rotterdam, Europe’s largest.

The Dutch Food Authority on Friday said dozens of veterinarians from across the European Union are taking crash courses in Dutch to ensure the Netherlands has enough inspectors for a no-deal Brexit.

The bulk of 143 new food inspectorate employees are from southern and eastern Europe due to a shortage of Dutch candidates, said Paula de Jonge, spokeswoman for the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority.

Not all will be ready to go to work in April because they need to complete three six-week Dutch language courses in addition to regular job training, De Jonge said.

Roughly 100 are veterinarians being hired to handle livestock inspections after Britain leaves the EU and its huge single market on March 29. The Dutch imported 237 million euros of British meat in 2017.

“Britain will be considered an outside country requiring more stringent checks than goods coming from member states which do not need additional certification,” De Jonge said.

Reporting by Anthony Deutsch and Bart Meijer; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Catherine Evans

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