Blow for Brits in France as ‘Brexit minister’ quits French government

France's unofficial 'Brexit minister' has quit the French government leaving Britons in the country wondering who will replace the woman who was behind the country's no-deal Brexit bill and who was considered supportive of the rights of Brits to stay in the country.

Blow for Brits in France as 'Brexit minister' quits French government
France's Europe Minister Natalie Loiseau has quit the government. Photo: AFP

Europe minister Natalie Loiseau, a fluent English speaker, is one of three minister who quit the French government on Wednesday, President Emmanuel Macron's office said, as they prepared to run in upcoming European and municipal elections.

The departures bring to 10 the number of ministers to have left Macron's centrist government since he took office in 2017.

READ ALSO: France's Europe minister 'names her cat Brexit because he is reluctant to leave'

A presidential statement announced the departure of Europe minister Nathalie Loiseau, head of the list for Macron's party in the May European elections, as well as junior ministers Benjamin Griveaux and Mounir Mahjoubi who are both planning to run for mayor of Paris in 2020.

The presidency has given no indication on their possible successors.

Campaigners for Britons in France will be keeping a close eye on who is named to replace Loiseau who in an interview with The Local this year expressed her support for Britons worried about the impact of Brexit.

She said Brits were a “priority” for the French government and that in the case of a no deal Brexit they will be given enough time to secure their status.

“We want them to stay. We want them to be able to work, study or be retired here,” she said.

Although Loiseau's eventual no-deal bill hardly calmed the fears of Britons, Loiseau was considered capable and supportive by campaigners and regularly spoke up for Brits. She held a Facebook Q&A that gave Brits the chance to pose their questions directly to the minister.

Kalba Meadows from Remain in France Together said the timing of the resignation – with so much uncertainty around the outcome of Brexit and no-deal still a possibility – wasn't ideal.

Loiseau's replacement is expected to be announced by Monday, the date of Macron's next cabinet meeting.

Macron's Europe adviser Clement Beaune is said to be in line to replace Loiseau in the ministerial role, a key post in communicating France's position on the fraught Brexit negotiations.

Among other ministers to have left Macron's government previously were Nicolas Hulot, who quit as ecology minister last year accusing Macron of not giving priority to environmental reforms.

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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.