Paris has gathered an elite team of civil servants to plan for Britain’s exit from the European Union – and all eventualities.
The team, which meets regularly, is tasked with examining every possible effect that Brexit could have on France.
The Brexit task force was formed under Francois Hollande in July 2016, around the same time Westminster formed its own Department for Exiting the European Union.
Philippe Léglise-Costa, then head of France’s EU affairs directorate, and socialist Bernard Cazeneuve, then socialist interior minister, gave the team a head start, and they began preparations even before Germany.
Paris officials have had the luxury of being able to work and prepare in private, whereas in Britain the army of Brexit planners has had their position under intense public scrutiny at every turn.
A diplomat told Politico this kind of “technocratic” challenge plays into the French’s hands as it is what they excel at.
They said: “Without the French, the positions of the rest of the 27 might be a good deal less unified and solid than they are today.”
The elite team has drawn up a number of contingency plans for each possible outcome, including a “hard” and “soft” Brexit.
But they are also preparing for a no-deal scenario “on a theoretical basis”, the diplomat added.
The group reportedly had its last meeting in early October, before the EU summit in Brussels where leaders agreed there had not been “sufficient progress” for talks to progress.
As well as preparing to protect their own interests after the UK leaves the bloc, Paris is also focusing on what it wants out of an Anglo-Franco relationship post-Brexit.
The French want to maintain the status quo and make sure it is a smooth transition, the diplomat added that the French are keen to keep their access to British ports.
Ultimately, the diplomat said that Westminster needs to accept that it is the EU that sets the rules for negotiations.
This comes after the former Director General of the British Chambers of Commerce said a Brexit no deal would be cheaper than a divorce bill – and better for the economy.
John Longworth, who is chairman of Leave Means Leave, says Britain should adopt World Trade Organisation rules and it would boost the economy and living standards of the British people.
He said: “If we were to simply adopt WTO rules of trade and gradually remove external tariffs, starting with food, clothing, footwear and industrial components, our economy would boom.”