As December 31 looms, there is no doubt that the end of the Brexit transition period will be a very painful experience for everyone involved, especially the UK consumer and everyone connected with British businesses and the transport sector. That is, everyone on the British side of the English Channel.

Because, even with ‘a deal’ agreed between the UK and the rest of Europe in the 45 days left, everything but everything will change at the end of 2020.

An article in Le Figaro published on Tuesday lays it bare.

European business that export to the UK, and vice versa, will have to complete nine different forms, including: a certificate of conformity (to the other side’s standards), declaration of import and of export, VAT, authorisation for the vehicle carrying the goods, and permission to access the county of Kent – in the case of using the most-frequented Calais-Dover route.

In addition, specific documentation will be needed in connection with the goods being carried, such as fresh products, animals, fruit and vegetables. The number of documents needed by the British side will reach an estimated 270 million during 12 months, but that is only an estimate because the IT systems and software are not yet in place.

While the UK side said it will phase in checks on imports from Europe over a period of six months, it would be mistaken to hope for clemency from the other side. The French will impose stringent checks from Day 1. And the French love paperwork.

“Whether the negotiations succeed or fail, the border and controls will be reestablished on January 1, 2021 and everyone must prepare for it,” said Xavier Bertrand, president of the Hauts-de-France region, through which 70 percent of the traffic between the UK and the mainland travels.

An unnamed UK consultant told Le Figaro that “no-one knows exactly what will happen,” representing British hopes that the necessity of mutual trade will win the day and that UK trucks will be cheerily waved through customs controls.

Six weeks from the re-imposition of the UK-Europe border, the Brits still cling to the view that “it will be alright on the night.”

But it won’t be. Deal or no deal.

FILE PHOTO: Employees of Eurotunnel check a British truck on its way to France during a day of test in case of Brexit at the entrance of the Channel tunnel in Folkestone, Britain September 17, 2019. Denis Charlet/Pool via REUTERS