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Theresa May heads to France for Brexit talks

Theresa May will visit Paris on Thursday as part of her first overseas trip as Prime Minister, to talk to President François Hollande about the UK's plans to leave the EU.

Theresa May heads to France for Brexit talks
Theresa May will meet François Hollande on Thursday. Photo: Philippe Huguen/Justin Tallis / AFP

May's meeting with Hollande will follow similar discussions with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday. The British and French leaders will also talk about counter-terrorism cooperation following the Nice truck attack, a spokeswoman said Monday.

They are May's first foreign visits since she became prime minister last Wednesday in the wake of Britain's referendum vote to leave the European Union.

Incoming British premiers normally make early visits to establish personal links with key European leaders, but this week's trip will be highly charged by the referendum outcome and the need to forge a new relationship between Britain and the continent's major powers.

After taking her first weekly prime minister's questions session in the British parliament at midday (1100 GMT), May will travel to Berlin for a meeting and a working dinner with Merkel.

“This will be an opportunity to discuss the bilateral relationship, cooperation on a range of global challenges, and of course how the UK and Germany can work together as the UK prepares to leave the EU,” the spokeswoman said.

Then on Thursday, she will visit Paris for a meeting with Hollande at the president's Elysée Palace official residence.

“The talks are likely to cover similar issues as those in Berlin, as well as Thursday's attack in Nice and counter-terrorism cooperation,” the spokeswoman said.

Elysée sources said May would be due in Paris late on Thursday, with three subjects on the agenda: external security and the battle against terror; implementing Brexit and the importance of Franco-British relations.

The result of the June 23 referendum sent shockwaves through Europe.

In Britain, Prime Minister David Cameron – who, like May, backed the UK staying in the EU – stepped down.

May, who had spent six years as Cameron's interior minister, became leader of the governing centre-right Conservative Party following a short contest, before taking office.

Top Brexit campaigner and former mayor of London Boris Johnson, her surprise choice as new foreign minister, was in Brussels on Monday for talks with his EU counterparts.

He said Britain would continue to play a leading role in Europe.

“We have to give effect to the will of the people and leave the European Union but… we are not going in any way to abandon our leading role in European participation,” Johnson told reporters.

EU leaders insist Britain's negotiations for its departure from the bloc can only start once London invokes Article 50 of the EU's Lisbon Treaty, setting a two-year countdown on the divorce.

TRAVEL NEWS

France may cut Channel islands ferry service after post-Brexit collapse in visitor numbers

Visits to the Channel islands from France have halved since Brexit, and French local authorities say they may be forced to cut the regular ferry service, asking for the passport requirement to be waived for French visitors.

France may cut Channel islands ferry service after post-Brexit collapse in visitor numbers

Travel to and from the Channel islands – which are British crown dependancies – has reduced significantly since Brexit, when passports became a requirement for those travelling in and out of the islands and their ports.

Now the president of the local authorities in the Manche département of France has asked that passport requirements be lifted, with hopes of increasing travel to and from the islands.

Jean Morin told Ouest France that there has been a “considerable reduction in the number of passengers on routes between the Channel ports and the islands” and as a result the ferry service between France and the islands was seriously in deficit.

“On these lines, we will never make money, but we cannot be in deficit”, explained the Morin. 

He added that if a solution is not found by the deadline of May 1st, 2023, then local authorities will stop funding the shipping company DNO, which runs the Manche Îles Express ferry service.

“If the passport requirement is not lifted by then, we will have no choice but not to renew the service contract for 2024-2025”, Morin told Ouest France.

Only around half of French people have a passport, since the ID card issued to all adults is sufficient to travel within the EU. 

READ MORE: Ask the Expert: How Brexit has changed the rules on pensions, investments and bank accounts for Brits in France

DNO re-launched operations in April and since then, the company, and by extension the département – who plays a large role in funding it via a public service delegation – has been losing significant funds.

According to Franceinfo, the number of passengers has been cut in half since passport requirements were introduced. Franceinfo estimates that for one ticket for one passenger costing €30, the département spends €200.

According to Morin, the ideal solution would be to require a simple ID for tourists seeking to take just day-long or weekend-long stays on the islands – which reportedly represents at least 90 percent of the boats’ usual passengers.

“The Jersey government is working hard on the issue and is waiting for an agreement from London and the European Union. There is the possibility that things could move quickly”, Morin told Franceinfo on Tuesday.

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic and Brexit, boats going to and from the French mainland carried at least 110,000 people per year. In 2022, only 40,000 passengers made the journey, Olivier Normand, the sales manager of Manche Îles Express, told Actu France.

Normand had expected the decline, however. He told Actu France that the company had taken a survey, which found that almost half (between 40 and 50 percent) of their clientele did not have a passport. 

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