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BREXIT

French parliament begins debating no-deal Brexit bill

French lawmakers began debating a bill Tuesday dealing with the fallout from Brexit, which would empower the government to issue emergency decrees to protect the status of Brits in France if the UK leaves the European Union next year without a deal.

French parliament begins debating no-deal Brexit bill
Photo: AFP
France and other EU countries have begun planning for Britain crashing out of the EU on March 29 with no deal as negotiations between Brussels and London 
appear to be at an impasse.
   
This would leave a number of key issues in limbo, including the future of Britons living in Europe and EU citizens living in Britain.
   
The French bill is being considered by the upper house Senate, before it goes to the chamber of deputies.
   
“The bill is only a first stage in preparing for Brexit,” said Jean Bizet, chair of the French Senate's Brexit committee.
 
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Brexit planning: What you'll need to do if there's no deal Photo: AFP

Some 300,000 French people live in Britain, while at least 150,000 British citizens reside in France, raising concerns for their future residency status.
 
The bill will seek to protect French citizens returning from Britain from possible problems over pension rights or having their diplomas recognised in the EU. 
 
It will also take steps to protect the rights of Britons already living in France although France's Europe Minister Natalie Loiseau has made it clear any actions Paris takes will depend on London taking reciprocal steps to guarantee the status of French citizens in the UK.
 
“We must make sure that in the absence of a deal on March 30, 2019, Britons living in France do not find themselves suddenly with irregular (immigration) status,” Loiseau said previously.   
 
The movement of trade is also key, especially at Channel ports and through the Channel tunnel.
   
Some 30,000 French companies export to Britain, according to the French finance ministry, with goods worth some 31 billion euros ($35.5 billion) in 2017.
   
France has already begun recruiting extra customs agents to be deployed in Channel ports post-Brexit, and businesses have been warned to prepare for the sudden imposition of trade barriers if the two sides fail to reach a deal.
 
Ladislas Poniatowski, a conservative overseeing the Senate committee's Brexit report, stressed the government was not being given “a blank cheque” despite the fact it could be allowed to issue emergency decrees.
   
The committee has already amended the government's original bill, including to add a clause on protecting French and British citizens' employment rights in both countries. 
   
Rights groups representing Britons living in Europe and EU citizens in Britain formed a human chain outside Downing Street on Monday, demanding the government guarantee their status in a no-deal scenario. 

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TRAVEL NEWS

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

OPINION UK-France travel crisis will only be solved when the British get real about Brexit

The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.

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