Hauts-de-France President, Xavier Bertrand is mulling an area near Calais to "keep on working" with British companies

Hauts-de-France President, Xavier Bertrand is mulling an area near Calais to "keep on working" with British companies

Hauts-de-France President Xavier Bertrand has extended a business olive branch to the UK – sitting just across the English Channel from his region – as London continues its tortuous exit from the European Union.

The Hauts-de-France President hinted he would welcome British firms to set up in his region following Brexit next year – although it is far from yet clear what sort of trading arrangements – free or otherwise – will exist post-2019.

"We aim to develop a particular strategy with our British friends," said Bertrand at the recent Forum on the European Automotive Industry (FEAL) in Lille, grouping suppliers, OEMs and government officials in France's primary manufacturing region for the sector.

"We need to respect their decision – a decision that was taken democratically. We try to develop a non-aggressive strategy – they are not becoming our enemies overnight – rather it is the contrary. The closest area of Europe [to the UK] is our region, Northern France.

"We are ready to create partnerships with them – they are more than welcome to come here. I think there is a lot to be gained in working together – we want to keep this cross-Channel relationship going. I am thinking of creating an area close to Calais to keep on working [with] them.

"The car industry is not only Germany – the car industry in Europe is also located to the West of Germany."

Bertrand is not shy about banging his region's drum and to that end lauds the area as creating the most industrial jobs last year – a welcome boon to chip away at France's stubbornly high unemployment rate which has only recently started to ebb back from its peak of more than 10%.

The Hauts-de-France chief – at one point thought to be a Presidential candidate in the 2017 contest - was closely involved with the immigrant crisis at Calais a couple of years ago and which provoked considerable anger among UK hauliers.

Television pictures showed nightly clandestine attempts by desperate migrants fleeing war-torn Syria and economic depression in Northern Africa, attempt to board lorries bound for Britain, while a huge, squalid 'jungle' camp had thousands existing in miserable conditions.

"The situation is no longer comparable," Bertrand told just-auto on the sidelines of the Lille conference. "From the part of the UK government there has been more cooperation which is more efficient.

"It is not just to give cheques to make barriers – we have to invest in technology to make it more effective. Our object is to return to a normal situation."

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