With arms flailing and raised voices, a shipping manager and a customs chief in the Belgian port of Zeebrugge talk through all the things that could go wrong if the Brexit talks fail.
Trucks backed up for miles on the highway. Car manufacturing plants idled as deliveries are delayed. Mountains of paperwork paralyzing small companies that can’t afford teams of lawyers.
Not since the 1970s have port towns like this had to deal with customs in their massive trade with Britain, and that could change on Brexit day on March 30, 2019. Britain and the European Union are struggling to agree on the terms of business after that date, raising the chances of a sudden return of tariffs and border controls. And while Brexit has not so far been a big concern for many people in continental Europe, the prospect of there being no deal is starting to unnerve companies and authorities — particularly in places like ports that operate on the front lines of global trade.