‘We’re British!’: The rush to Calais to make most of ‘booze cruises’ before Brexit

French supermarkets in Calais have been doing a roaring trade this week as British boozers scrambled to stock up on their favourite drinks ahead of a possible no-deal Brexit on Friday.

'We're British!': The rush to Calais to make most of 'booze cruises' before Brexit
A British couple load cases of wine into a vehicle outside a supermarket at Coquelles on the outskirts of Calais in April 2019. Photo: AFP
“We're British! We're not going to stop drinking,” Tom Young joked as he packed the trunk of his car with bottles of French wine on a quick cross-Channel shopping trip.
As Prime Minister Theresa May toured European capitals this week pleading for a further Brexit delay, supermarkets in northern France were doing a brisk trade as British shoppers rushed to stock up on their favourite tipple.
While May's prayers look set to be answered at an EU summit later on Wednesday, removing the risk of Britain crashing out of the bloc without a deal on Friday, Young and his wife were taking no chances.
The couple, who travelled from Essex in southeast England to the French port of Calais, returned home with 300 bottles of wine for a wedding, taking advantage of lower French prices.
Photo: AFP
“We come every year for our holidays. We take advantage of those trips to buy wine, whether it's in a place like here or in the vineyards in France,” Young said.
While Brexit had not prompted the trip “it has affected the timing,” he said. 
“We wanted to make sure we got the wine before Friday, when there is a possibility that we will crash out with no deal.” 
For decades, Britons have undertaken “booze cruises” – trips to the alcohol supermarkets which dot the roads around Calais – to take advantage of the huge range of wines on offer at low prices. 
Britain is the second-biggest market for French wine, after the United States, consuming some €1.3 billion worth of French wine and spirits in 2018, according to the federation of French exporters of wines and spirits.
The prospect of a no-deal Brexit, which could see tariffs imposed on EU exports to Britain and vice-versa, has triggered a cross-Channel scramble for stocks, according to French supermarkets. 
Guillaume Pigniez, manager of the Terre de Boissons wine store in a shopping centre in Calais, said he had noticed a spurt in activity after Britain secured a first Brexit extension on March 21. 
Photo: AFP
“There has been a major upsurge of British people all over Calais,” he told AFP.
“Many people took precautions and came to quickly buy their stock for the year.
“Marcello Vargui, an Italian man living in London who crosses the sea every three months to fill up on wine and champagne, was relaxed about the chances of Brexit pushing up the price of his glass of red.
“I don't think that Brexit will change anything,” he said. “It's in the interest of both countries to limit tariffs as much as possible. The French need to sell and the British need to buy.”

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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.