British embassy: ‘We are working on reaching more and more Brits in France’

The British embassy has defended its efforts to inform Brits in France about the impact of Brexit after coming under criticism by campaigners for not doing enough.

British embassy: 'We are working on reaching more and more Brits in France'
Britain's ambassador to France Lord Ed Llewellyn. AFP

The embassy defended its work in reaching out to Britons after the British government was told it must do more to inform vulnerable Brits in France about the possible impact of Brexit, particularly those who don't have access to the internet.

Campaigners and Brits living in Paris said the embassy was not doing enough and it was now urgent to act to prevent them being “left out in the cold” on October 31st, the date when Britain could leave the EU without a deal.

A spokesperson for the British embassy in Paris has detailed all the efforts officials have gone to in order to get information and instructions to the estimated 150,000 Britons across France, most of whom live in rural areas. Here is the response in full.

The spokesperson said: “British citizens remain the top priority for the Embassy and we are working on reaching more and more British nationals in France.

“We undertake a lot of communication online – via the Living in France Guide which outlines information on Brexit and what British nationals will need to do to prepare; our monthly Facebook Q&A sessions which have reached over 120,000; and our quarterly email newsletter Voisins Voices. 

“We understand that not everyone is online so we’re also reaching British nationals offline:

“Firstly, through citizen outreach meetings. These started in 2017 and have taken place across the country (with a focus on where most British people live) and we’ve now held over 70 meetings, with attendance from 10 to 400 people at each. We invite French local authorities to join us at the meeting so that British citizens can ask their questions directly to prefecture staff. The meetings are advertised via expat media, local associations, on GOV.UK, and shared on social media. When holding the meetings we also work with French regional press to amplify the information locally.

“Secondly, our consular teams in Paris, Marseille and Bordeaux have a special focus on reaching vulnerable persons and are therefore working with numerous local associations, expat groups, and the Mayors’ Association to raise awareness and share information. We’ve sent hundreds of posters to town halls and prefectures, and we also ask people attending our outreach meetings to display them in their towns and villages. The consular teams also work on individual cases that arise. We also have a network of honorary consuls who raise cases of vulnerable Brits in their communities.

“Thirdly, we try to work through the media at key moments in the Brexit process and often provide information to expat media. In March and April this year we ran adverts on the BBC website in France and broadcast messages on over a hundred English-speaking podcasts popular with Brits in France.

“Finally, we have discussed the need for widespread and accessible communications with the French government and are expecting official government information to be publicised when Brexit happens. As soon as that happens, we will amplify those messages through all Embassy and HMG channels. In the meantime we have translated several of their documents, which are available on the Living in France guide, and are expecting an English version of their website to be available soon.

“After the UK has left the EU, all British nationals living in France will need to take action so we would encourage them to look at our website, attend one of our meetings, speak to our consular section, and look out for French official information in the coming months.”

READ ALSO: UK urged to reach Brits in rural France who face being 'left out in the cold'

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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.