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 brexit.gouv.fr 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.”