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BREXIT

No-deal Brexit: France tells firms to look for alternatives to Britain

The French government on Friday urged companies to start planning in earnest for Britain to crash out of the European Union without a divorce deal, advising them to seek out new potential business partners.

No-deal Brexit: France tells firms to look for alternatives to Britain
French port of Calais. Photo: AFP
In a 28-page advice booklet, the government said firms using British suppliers or sub-contractors should already be looking for alternatives.
   
And companies in specialist sectors operating under EU rules, such as pharmaceutical firms, were told they should consider moving their British operations back onto the European continent. 
 
France's European Minister Nathalie Loiseau urged businesses “not to panic but to prepare” ahead of a possible no-deal Brexit on Friday. 
 
“Keep calm and carry on,” she said, using the British wartime adage, adding that with the current Brexit D-Day set to take place on March 29th, businesses needed to act now.
 
 
France, like other EU countries, is bracing for a potentially calamitous British exit on March 29 after the parliament in London resoundingly rejected a deal negotiated by Prime Minister Theresa May.
 
Junior Finance Minister Agnes Pannier-Runacher said France was “hoping for the best but planning for the worst”. 
 
“There is now a significant risk that Britain will leave the EU without a deal and there is no time to lose for French businesses that work with the UK or employ British citizens,” Pannier-Runacher said. 
 
“That means that from March 30th Britain counts as a third country and all our deals with them agreed under the European Union will no longer be included.
 
“Businesses have to prepare and take the necessary measures, something in which professional organisations will have to play a key role,” she said. 
 
But she also added that there “was no reason it should be difficult”. 
 
As one of Britain's closest neighbours, France has been taking such a prospect seriously, activating a “no deal” plan that unlocks up to 50 million euros ($57 million) for bolstering security at ports and airports.
 
It has begun recruiting an additional 740 customs officials and veterinary inspectors, while passing legislation that allows for emergency decrees in the 
event of a “no deal”.
 
Frustrated France says Brexit deadline could be pushed back but 'deal cannot be reopened'
France's European Minister Nathalie Loiseau. Photo: AFP
 
With just 63 days to go until Britain's scheduled exit, Pannier-Runacher warned that a no deal would fling France “into an unprecedented situation with a major trading partner”.
 
Franco-British 'downgrade' 
   
The advice warns French companies with staff in Britain to work out how it will affect matters such as social security contributions, and to possibly revert to using temporary workers.
   
Firms should consider transferring financial services contracts to EU countries, and withdrawing confidential data held within Britain.
   
And French companies working alongside British partners on EU-funded projects should now be looking elsewhere, the advice says.
   
Loiseau said that while France would seek a post-Brexit relationship with Britain that was “close and mutually beneficial”, it would inevitably be a relationship that has been “downgraded”.
   
“There is no relationship more simple, more profitable, more complete — between businesses, between citizens — than being a member of the European Union,” she said.
 
French officials are planning to hold around 30 meetings around the country to help local businesses deal with the Brexit fallout.
   
Some 30,000 French companies currently export to Britain — tariff-free as part of the EU's customs union. 
   
These exports make up around three percent of France's annual output. 

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VISAS

‘Be ready to wait’: Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Now that Britain is out of the EU, just how much harder is the process of moving to France from the UK after Brexit? British readers share their experiences of applying for visas as 'third country nationals’.

'Be ready to wait': Your tips for getting a French visa post-Brexit

Whether you’re moving to France to live, or you’re a second-home owner wanting to spend more than 90 days out of every 180 in France, if you’re British you will now need a visa.

You can find more on how to apply for a visa, and how to understand what type of visa you need, in our visa section HERE.

But how these systems work in practice is not always the same as the theory.

To learn more about the process of getting a visa as a UK national, The Local asked British readers for their experiences of going through the system.

The consensus among respondents was that the whole thing was bureaucratic, though there were notable differences in experiences that ranged from the “easy” to the “complicated” and “time-consuming”, while the advice for future applicants was, routinely, have all your paperwork ready – and be prepared for a lengthy wait at one of the UK’s TLS centres

Appointments

Like most visas, French visas for UK nationals must be applied for before you leave home. You can find a full explanation of the process here, but the basic outline is that you apply for the visa online, and then have an in-person appointment in the UK in order to present your paperwork. 

Sue Clarke told us: “As long as you get all your paperwork together correctly and in the right order, the time it takes to receive your passport back with the visa in it once TLS has sent it off is only a few days.

“TLS – the centre which works on behalf of the French Embassy to collate your application – is so very busy,” she added. “That part of the process took hours even when you have an appointment.”

READ ALSO EXPLAINED: What type of French visa do you need?

“The visa process itself was fairly well run, and a decision for the initial visa was quick,” wrote Ian Sheppard, who successfully applied for a visa in July 2022. 

“Although getting the follow up residence permit was a pain, [and] took longer than expected, and there was little to no communication with severely limited ways to get in touch about the application.”

Sheppard thought that, biometrics apart, the process could have taken place online, and wondered whether the follow-up residence permit application could be more closely linked to the initial visa application, “rather than effectively submitting the same application twice”.

Georgina Ann Jolliffe described the process as “stressful”. 

“A lot of the initial stage was unclear and I needed a lot of reassurance about the visa trumping the Schengen 90 days. (The Local helped on that one),” she wrote. 

“[The] lack of ready communication was very stressful. It could be slicker, however staff at Manchester TLS were excellent.”

Jacqueline Maudslay, meanwhile, described the process as “complicated”, saying: “The waiting times for the appointment with the handling agent (TLS in the UK) are long and difficult to book online. We applied for a long-stay visa and were given a short-stay visa, with no reasoning and no option of talking to anyone.  

“We had met every criteria for the long-stay visa. There needs to be a contact link with the French Consular website directly for discussing visa applications.”

Handling agent TLS’s website – the first port of call for applicants from the UK – was a target for criticism.

“The TLS system is probably the most user unfriendly system I have ever used,” wrote Susan Kirby. “It throws up errors for no legitimate reason and even changes data you have keyed in. Dates are in American format so you have to be very careful and it can be very difficult to edit.”

Bea Addison, who applied for a visa in September 2021 with a view to retiring in France, agreed that it was complicated and believes the French system is chaotic and badly organised compared to other countries. “Even staff in the French Embassy in London were not knowledgeable of the process and documentation,” she wrote.

“The renewal in France was applied for in July 2022 … we have received an attestation that we will be granted renewal visas, which expired in October 2022, but we have not yet received a date to attend the préfecture due to a backlog.

Second-home owners

Many of our survey respondents were not moving to France, but were instead second-home owners who did not want to be constrained by the 90-day rule.

They have the option of remaining residents of the UK and applying for a short-stay French visitor visa – which must be renewed every year.

Second-home owner Peter Green told us: “Our appointment with TLS was delayed by two and a half hours and the whole experience was chaotic.

“We now have to go through exactly the same process again to get a visa for 2023. With second-home owners there should be a fast track that just involves proving financial viability, nothing else has changed. The system needs to be fully computerised.”

Second-home owner Alan Cranston told us his application met with no problems, but came with “unwanted cost and effort”. 

“Our six-month visa was for our first stint at our house in France in the spring, and that then overlapped our second visit in the autumn which was under Schengen. How that is handled seems to be a muddle (we did not leave the country for a day at the end of the six months, as some advise),” he said. 

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