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ELECTION

UK election result leaves Britons in France in mourning… but there is a positive side

Britons in France expressed anger and dismay on Friday after the UK election result dashed their remaining hopes that Brexit could somehow be avoided. But they were urged to look at the positive aspect of Boris Johnson's resounding win.

UK election result leaves Britons in France in mourning... but there is a positive side
UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Photo: AFP

The victorious prime minister insisted on Friday he would do everything to get Brexit done by January 31st 2020.

Brexit he said was now the “irrefutable, irresistible, unarguable will of the British people”.

There will be many Britons in France who might still dispute that but most seemed to accept on Friday, some for the first time, that the UK will leave the EU and they would no longer be European citizens.

READ ALSO What does the Withdrawal Agreement mean for British people in France?


British people in France have been in limbo for more than three years over their future rights. Photo: AFP

Many Brits in France took to social media groups to express sadness, shock and anger that the UK, or at least England and Wales, had effectively voted for Brexit once again.

Their reactions echoed those that followed the shock 2016 referendum result.

“It's a devastating morning for all of us – we know that people are shocked and angry and hurting, as we are ourselves after three and a half years of campaigning,” Kalba Meadows from France Rights and British in Europe told The Local.

“Yesterday there was still a glimmer of hope that we might remain in the EU; today that's gone – it's a true Friday the 13th. So today is a day to mourn and take stock.”

But Meadows and others who have been sticking up for the rights of Britons in France and Europe have stressed there is at least something positive to take from Boris Johnson's win.

Much of the uncertainty that has blighted the lives of many and impacted the health of some will soon come to an end, although granted not all.

“There is some not-so-bad news too – our future rights will now be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, and we no longer have the spectre of a no deal Brexit that has kept us up at night for so long,” she said.

“It's not perfect – we lose our voting rights and our right to free movement for example – but it's lifetime protection of the majority of the rights we have now, and it'll stand even if the government doesn't reach a trade deal with the EU. 

“And of course there will be no change for us until the end of the transition period.

“We'd expect the French government now to begin the process of planning the implementation of the Withdrawal Agreement.”

Justine Wallington from the campaign group Remain in France Together also suggested that there was a plus side to the “unpleasant shock” of the result.

“We mourn the imminent loss of our European citizenship, however, with respect to citizens' rights for those who are already resident before any cut off date (probably end of 2020), we face an improved situation compared to last October.

“Previously, current residents were facing a “no-deal” scenario and having to rely on the French Decree and now we are probably looking at the Withdrawal Agreement being agreed. This should secure many of our rights in an international treaty for the rest of our lives.

“Some rights likely to be retained are the S1 medical cover, pension uprating, pension aggregation and more. Some rights we will probably lose – voting rights in local and EU elections in France at the end of January and onward freedom of movement at the end of the transition period.”

That transition period is due to end in December 2020 – just 12 months from now – although it may well be extended despite Boris Johnson having vowed not to.

However future generations who want to move and in France after the transition period have no idea what conditions will be imposed on them. That will all be decided in the coming months and years.

Some UK citizens in France were grateful that they could now at least look forward.

Clive Williams said: “For me personally this gives a way ahead with a withdrawal agreement that should protect my rights having decided to live in France 18 years ago. So now the uncertainty is gone, some bureaucracy is required and I can continue to live in a tolerant, beautiful country.”

Many on The Local's Facebook page and in RIFT's Facebook group spoke of the steps they will now take to secure their future in France, even if meant having to overcome some bureaucratic and linguistic hurdles.

Mary Hartley said: “This is a very sad day for me, I honestly did not believe that it would come to this but that’s made my mind up to go for dual nationality.”

Christine Craik had a similar reaction.

“I'm gutted! But it has made my decision easier to apply for French nationality.

Andrew Crowe said: “I need to be fluent in French fast to pass the nationality test. My life, family and business are here in France yet if I am not fluent I cannot be a citizen.”

 

While many Brits spoke of being grateful they were living in France given the Brexit chaos that has engulfed the UK, one reader Thomas Lam was not looking forward to the future.

“I've been living in Reims but I'm from the UK. I am so genuinely disheartened and devastated by the result of the election,” he said.

“I'm moving back home in the next few days, but now I'm not sure if I want to.”

 

Member comments

  1. This article is not correct. It states “There is some not-so-bad news too – our future rights will now be protected by the Withdrawal Agreement, and we no longer have the spectre of a no deal Brexit that has kept us up at night for so long,”

    This is not true. If the withdrawal agreement is not negotiated by the end of 2020 (and the EU says it’s won’t be) then Johnson can conveniently get the no-deal brexit that he and his rich cronies actually want.

  2. Unfortunately that is correct, and no Conservative politician interviewed on television today ruled out a no deal completely.

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TRAVEL NEWS

‘We will be ready’ vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

Transport bosses have raised fears of long queues in British ports when the EU's new EES system comes into effect next year, but French border officials insist they will be ready to implement the new extra checks.

'We will be ready' vows France, amid fears of UK border chaos

The EU’s new EES system comes into effect in 2023 and many people – including the boss of the Port of Dover and the former UK ambassador to France – have raised concerns that the extra checks will lead to travel chaos on the UK-France border, and see a repeat of the long queues experienced last summer.

Port of Dover CEO Doug Bannister told The Local that he feared “tailbacks out of the port and throughout Kent” because the new system could take up to 10 minutes to process a car with four passengers, as opposed to 90 seconds currently.

EXPLAINED What the EES system means for travel to France in 2023

But French border control have insisted that they will be ready, replying to questions from the European Commission with “Oui, La France sera prête” (yes, France will be ready).

French officials said they had already undertaken extension preparation and would begin test runs of the new system in French border posts at the end of this year.

document shared recently by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties, shows how countries are preparing. 

“France has prepared very actively and will be on schedule for an EES implementation in compliance with the EU regulation,” French authorities say.

“The French authorities have carried out numerous studies and analyses, in cooperation with infrastructure managers, to map passenger flows at each border crossing post… and evaluate the EES impact on waiting times,” the document says. 

However, despite the preparation, the French admit that long waits at the border remain a worry, adding: “the prospect of the impact of EES on waiting times at the borders worries infrastructure managers. The fact remains that fluidity remains a concern, and that exchanges are continuing with each border post manager to make progress on this point.”

The EES system is due to come into effect in May 2023 and will be applied at all EU external borders – find full details on how it works HERE.

However there has been particular concern about the France-UK border due to three things; the high volume of traffic (in total over 60 million passengers cross the border each year); the fact that many travel by car on ferries and the Eurotunnel (while the EES system seems more designed with foot passengers in mind); and the Le Touquet agreement which means that French border control agents work in the British ports of Dover and Folkestone and at London St Pancras station.

EES is essentially a more thorough passport checking process with passengers required to provide biometric information including fingerprints and facial scans – border checks will therefore take longer per passenger, and this could have a big effect at busy crossing points like Dover.

The UK’s former ambassador to France, Lord Ricketts, told The Local: “I think the EES, in particular, will be massively disruptive at the Channel ports.”

The EU consultation documents also revealed more details of how EES will work on a practical level for car passengers – those travelling by ferry or Eurotunnel to France – with border agents set to use computer tablets to gather biometric information like fingerprints so that passengers don’t have to get out of their cars.

READ ALSO France to use iPads to check biometric data of passengers from UK

Doug Bannister added that Dover agents were “awaiting an invitation” to France to see how the new systems will work. 

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