1 Britain could win millions by suing France over Calais migrant crisis
CONTAMINATION RISK: Huge losses are mounting up because of the goods having to be written off
BRITISH businesses stand to win millions by suing the French government over the Calais migrant crisis.
Hundreds of haulage and freight firms have lost contracts, had their goods spoilt or their reputations tarnished over delays caused by the migration crisis in Calais.
More than two-and-a-half million vehicles transport British goods worth £200billion every year between Calais and Dover.
Last night the Road Haulage Association confirmed it was “considering legal options” for recompense over delays that have cost its firms at least £60 million in the last few weeks alone.
French legal experts expressed their surprise last night that British businesses had not already begun proceedings against Francois Hollande’s Government.
“At the basis of French law there is a very simple idea, which is that public order should be protected or maintained regardless of what may happen to jeopardise it," said Michel Levy, of French law firm Fauchon Levy.
“If the state doesn’t take proper steps, it is liable, and there are remedies.
“British businesses stand to win millions in compensation from the French courts. They have a very good chance.”
Hauliers have had to cope with major delays caused by extra security checks, chaos caused by rampaging migrants and the contamination of sensitive cargoes.
One distributor of pharmaceuticals was forced to write off £2.5 m worth of drugs bound for NHS hospitals after migrants broke into their trailer.
According to the Fresh Produce Consortium, at least £10m worth of food destined for Britain had to be binned between January and June, because stowaways had posed a “contamination risk”.
The losses are made worse by the failure of some insurance companies to pay.
Speaking last night, Mr Levy, whose firm has offices in both London and Paris, said the French Government could not leave local authorities like Calais to pick up the costs of legal action.
“It is clear to me that the state now carries responsibility for the migrant situation in Calais,” he said.
“There is a law dating from 1983 that states that any damage that arises from a violent or non violent gathering is the responsibility of the state.
"This was introduced to ensure that victims received recompense.
"It is often not easy to sue individuals – impossible if they are migrants - so the French state takes the burden. And the victims don’t have to be French.
“British road hauliers have an equal right to French ones to travel peacefully on France’s highways.”
Referring to Calais, he added: “There is no doubt that migrants are continuing to gather, and continue to disrupt businesses to the extent that even the lives of residents of Calais are severely affected.
“Under French law, this breaches the principle of l’’egalite devant les charges publique’.
“While the Mayor of Calais may act as head of the local police authority, let us remember that it is national riot police – the CRS – that has been sent to Calais to keep order.
"Unfortunately, their measures are not effective. The state absolutely cannot abrogate its responsibility here.”
Peter Callum, head of international affairs for the Road Haulage Association, confirmed that the association had considered legal action in the past, but had been put off” by the complexities of French law.
It was reconsidering its options this week, however.
Last night Mr Levy added: “The French legal system is complex, but the more complex a situation, the better it is to stick to the most basic principles. This is a public law matter.
“In theory parties can act without representation and do not have to appear in Court, nor be cross-examined.”
RHA director of policy Jack Semple added: “The claim would take into account of a range of factors, including net loss of earnings due to the delays and additional costs to go by alternative routes which are generally not recovered from customers.
“We will also be discussing this with the IRU (International Road Transport Union, based in Geneva and with an office in Brussels).
"The compensation due to hauliers for the disruption caused by the chaos at Calais we would estimate, at this stage, at a minimum of around £60 million and that may go much higher.”
The news follows threats by Eurotunnel to sue the British government for £200 million if the Tunnel is closed because of the crisis.
9 Aug 2015 syr.i0.sl.pt
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