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Brexit: How one French port town is preparing

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Dieppe, on the Normandy coast, is tied to Sussex by centuries of sea crossings. Nowadays, the ferry from Newhaven is a gateway to France – carrying up to 40 lorries and 600 passengers two or three times a day in each direction. As the UK makes preparations for a possible no-deal exit from the EU, how are people in Dieppe responding?

I trudge along the quayside in the early morning light. A cool breeze blows salty air my way. A godsend, after a choppy crossing overnight.

I’ve come to the historic port of Dieppe. You could draw a straight line from Paris to London, and it would pass right through here.

Back home, the public conversation is dominated by Brexit.

But what do the Dieppois make of it all?

I approach the traders on the quayside, laying out their shellfish on upturned crates.

Here, my question is met with a gallic shrug.

“I’ve got nothing to say on that,” snaps one vendor, barely glancing up from her work. “I am not well informed.”

Another passer-by strikes a more conciliatory tone. “I don’t think it’s going to change a whole lot. I hope our relationship will last.”

‘Got to adapt’

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, France has said goods and people would once again need checking as they enter the country.

In January, it activated its plans for such a scenario, and 50m euro is being spent across France’s ports and airports.

In Dieppe, that means an extra eight customs officials at the port, as well as setting aside the old fruit warehouse for holding goods.

Nicolas Langlois, the 35-year-old mayor, explains this all with a calm, relaxed air.

“The challenge for us is to reassure local people, because there are many of them who work around the cross-channel route.

“We’re also asking for a fourth daily crossing, all year round, between Dieppe and Newhaven. If we were to get back 1%, 2%, 3% of the freight from Calais, then we’d multiply by two, by three, by four the freight to Dieppe and that would be economically important.”

How does he feel, I wonder, about having to spend money and make preparations because of a decision France was allowed no part in?

“Pah! That’s a very English question! C’est la vie. We’ve got to adapt.”

In the afternoon, we’re off to the races – Dieppe’s well-manicured hippodrome, which has its own role to play in the town’s Brexit preparations.

I’m joined by Agnes Sibers, president of a European racing club – the Fédération Internationale des Gentlemen-Riders et des Cavalières.

She explains: “Since British stallions are the best, and Norman ones are as well, British owners tend to send half of their mares to Normandy to get covered by French stallions.

“And going the other way, French owners and breeders send their mares to Ireland and England to be covered.”

If the UK leaves without a deal, these Channel-hopping horses – along with their foals – would be subject to veterinary checks not previously necessary.

The racecourse plans to build extra stabling and a 250m exercise yard for horses in quarantine.

Printing in coffee

My final stop takes me out of town, to a business park in the shadow of the gargantuan Nescafe factory.

The smell of coffee fills the valley – other brands presumably available elsewhere.

Here, Graham Precey from the Newhaven Regeneration Group joins Audrey Fontaine, of Normandie EcoSpace, to show me a workshop which makes expensive technology available to local start-ups and schools.

“Would you like to be scanned?” Audrey asks, earnestly brandishing a hand-held piece of kit.

It could, if I’m not careful, take a 3D map of me, ready to be printed in what looks like plastic.

In fact – the 3D printers here use coils made from recycled coffee and shellfish.

Graham loves the setup. He’s in talks to bring something similar to the Newhaven area.

Next month, both organisations are running a ‘start-up cruise’ across the Channel, where Norman and Sussex firms will link up.

Why all this cross-channel activity? Is Brexit focusing the mind?

Graham explains there’s something else, too. In three years’ time, the Normandy region will decide whether to continue subsidising the crossing to Dieppe.

“It’s a 26m euro a year subsidy from the French side to fund the ferry. From our perspective, how can we make the ferry busier and prove it’s value?”

A lot can change in three years, of course.

But in Dieppe, Brexit preparations tick on pragmatically, without much panic.

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Brighton meningitis amputee 'can even drive car'

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A man who almost died from meningitis has revealed how he began to look forward to having his limbs amputated.

Mike Davies, 60, from Brighton, spent 70 days in intensive care with meningococcal meningitis and septicaemia.

During this time, he said he knew his hands and feet were “dead” and he would recover better without them.

Now he says he is in a positive place and “can even hold a pint of beer”.

With the help of prosthetic limbs, Mr Davies can drive a specially-adapted car and said he was living life to the full.

“My message to anyone who has amputations would be not to give up,” he said.

The illness struck on Christmas Eve in 2017 when he began to get “colder and colder”.

He said: “Climbing into bed didn’t help. I looked like a ghost with blue lips.”

His family insisted he went to Royal Sussex County Hospital.

In the early hours of Christmas Day, his wife Julie and son Rory were taken to a room and told he was unlikely to survive.

‘A lucky man’

“When they held my hand, I could not feel it. My hands and feet were dying,” he said.

During 10 weeks in hospital “on the edge of survival”, he knew his limbs had to go.

“I began to look forward to having my hands and feet amputated

“I was on a lot of medication and I was very accepting that they needed to go for me to make a recovery” he said.

He spent two and a half months at Queen Mary’s University Hospital, Roehampton, learning to walk on prosthetic legs.

Since then, he has “walked three miles”, can feed himself, using cutlery strapped to his arms, and can “even hold a pint of beer”.

“I feel in quite a positive place in my mind about the challenges I still have to overcome.

“Support from other people has been key. I am a lucky man,” he said.

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Kai Gasson jailed for Crawley street stabbing murder

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A teenager who stabbed a man to death in a street has been jailed for life.

Kai Gasson, 17, had denied the murder of Arnold Potter in Crawley but was convicted and ordered to serve at least 15 years.

Reporting restrictions were lifted at Lewes Crown Court so unemployed Gasson, who lived in Crawley, could be named.

Mr Potter, 24, died in Watson Close, Maidenbower, on 15 November after he was wounded in the torso with a lock knife.

After the hearing, Det Ch Insp Andy Richardson said Gasson “rightly” faced a minimum of 15 years behind bars after the jury rejected his claim that he acted in self-defence after a row about drugs.

“Had Gasson not been in possession of a knife that day, he would not have stabbed anyone and he would not now be facing a sentence,” he said.

“We must continue to educate people – particularly young people – that carrying offensive weapons in public is a serious offence which ruins lives.”

Gasson was also found guilty of possessing a knife and admitted possessing cocaine with intent to supply.

After the court case, a family tribute issued through police said Mr Potter was a caring, kind-hearted man who had been loved by many.

The family said: “Please educate your children about knife crime, as it impacts every member of your family.

“Life goes on, but life will never be the same again for us.”

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Child held near cliff edge at Seven Sisters prompts warning

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The National Trust has warned people to “act sensibly” after pictures emerged of a man holding a child inches from an unstable cliff edge.

The pair were pictured on Monday at Seven Sisters near Eastbourne, East Sussex.

In 2017, 50,000 tonnes of the cliff crumbled and fell to the beach below.

The following day a 23-year-old South Korean tourist fell to her death when she jumped in the air for a picture and lost her footing on the edge.

Others were also seen near the edge and the Trust spokeswoman said: “It isn’t safe to stand or sit on the cliff edge.

“The cliffs are unstable in places and there are undercuts in the chalk, which people may be unaware of from the top.

“We advise visitors to act sensibly.”

There are permanent signs in place warning people of the danger.

MP for Lewes Maria Caulfield said the warm weather made an “ideal time to visit the coast”. However, she said it was “disappointing and concerning” to see people on the edge or “dangling children on the edge”.

“We know how dangerous those cliff edges are. We know people have been injured, and we’ve had tragic loss of life in the past.”

Ms Caulfield said she will speak to local councils on how to tackle the safety issues in future.

Previously, some have criticised the signage for not standing out, and there have been calls for signs in foreign languages as tourism from the Far East increases.

Ms Caulfield said: “It’s a difficult balance… if you put too much fencing or signage you destroy the beauty of the place.

“But it’s clear, despite the efforts of the local councils, the signs that are there are not enough to deter people from going close to the cliff edge.”

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