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BREXIT

EU picks Frenchman to lead Brexit talks with UK

A Frenchman has been named to lead the fraught Brexit talks between the EU and the UK over the coming months and years.

EU picks Frenchman to lead Brexit talks with UK
Photo: AFP

European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker on Wednesday appointed veteran French politician and former EU
commissioner Michel Barnier (photo below) to lead the negotiations with Britain on its exit from the bloc.

“I am very glad that my friend Michel Barnier accepted this important and challenging task. I wanted an experienced politician for this difficult job,” Juncker said in a statement.

“I am sure that he will live up to this new challenge and help us to develop a new partnership with the United Kingdom after it will have left the European Union.”

Michel Barnier, AFP)

Barnier held the key financial services portfolio from 2010 to 2014, spearheading efforts to tame the eurozone debt crisis which nearly brought down the single currency project and put the banking system back on track.

He was also a key architect of the EU's new banking union, whose creation often put him at loggerheads with the City of London.

He previously served as EU commissioner for regional policy and had stints as both French foreign and agriculture minister.

Barnier tweeted he was “honoured” by the appointment, which he will take up on October 1.

'UK won't get everything it wants'

France itself has warned the UK that it wold not be able to get everything it wants when it comes to Brexit negotiations with the EU. 

When British PM Theresa May visited Paris for talks with French president François Hollande last week she was told the UK could have entry to the free market without accepting freedom of movement.

Access to the single market cannot be guaranteed unless free movement of workers is respected,” said Hollande.

Christophe Premat the MP who represents French nationals in the UK told The Local the UK is unlikely to get an easy ride during Brexit talks.

“Of course Britain will come to an agreement with the EU, but the French government does not want the UK to have all the benefits of being in the EU, without actually being a part of it,” said Premat. 

“It's important to complete Brexit as soon as possible, partly because it's important to respect the vote,” said adding that the strong bilateral relations between Britain and France will stand the two countries in good stead when it comes to negotiations.

Diplomats close to Hollande also suggested the emphasis is firmly on the UK to deal with the fall out of the June referendum and will not get everything it asks for from Paris.

“The pressure is on Britain. It has put itself in this situation,” a French diplomatic source told AFP.

The diplomat said Britain could not get a custom-made agreement on its future relations with the EU.

“That is not possible. It has to choose between existing options.”

 

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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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