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British ski instructor can give lessons in France after winning 7-year legal battle

A French court has ruled that a British ski instructor has the right to give lessons in France, ending a seven-year legal fight that went to the heart of Europe's labour laws.

Simon Butler, 57, was fined a total of €42,000 in 2013 and 2014 for repeatedly taking out clients at his ski school in the posh Alps resort of Megeve despite lacking French certification.

Local instructors who joined the case as plaintiffs accused him of unfair competition, implying that securing a license from the British Association of Snowsport Instructors was easier than meeting the French requirements.

Butler appealed the fines, which also came with a suspended prison sentence, arguing that under EU law his British ski training licence allowed him to operate across the bloc.

The dispute took on a political dimension when Butler appeared for a 2014 hearing accompanied by a spokesman for Britain's anti-EU UKIP party, who denounced “a blatant display of national discrimination by the French government”.

In 2016, Butler filed a counterclaim against the Sports Ministry at the administrative court in Lyon, southeast France. Although he won that case, a criminal appeals court in Chambery upheld the original fines.

That set off further judicial skirmishes until last Wednesday's ruling by a Lyon appeals court that threw out the criminal case, according to two decrees obtained by AFP on Monday.

Butler's lawyer, Philippe Planes, added that Butler's newfound freedom to teach at the school he runs would not be changed by Brexit.

“It won't change anything for Britons already settled here, their rights are secured,” he said.

“For others in the future, that will depend on the negotiations under way” on Britain's future relation with the EU, he said.

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TRAVEL NEWS

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

A week after chaotic scenes and 6-hour queues at the port of Dover, the British motoring organisation the AA has issued an amber traffic warning, and says it expects cross-Channel ports to be very busy once again this weekend as holidaymakers head to France.

Amber alert: Travellers to France warned of another busy weekend at UK ports

The AA issued the amber warning on Thursday for the whole of the UK, the first time that it has issued this type of warning in advance.

Roads across the UK are predicted to be extremely busy due to a combination of holiday getaways, several large sporting events and a rail strike – but the organisation said that it expected traffic to once again be very heavy around the port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel terminal at Folkestone.

Last weekend there was gridlock in southern England and passengers heading to France enduring waits of more than six hours at Dover, and four hours at Folkestone.

The AA said that while it doesn’t expect quite this level of chaos to be repeated, congestion was still expected around Dover and Folkestone.

On Thursday ferry operator DFDS was advising passengers to allow two hours to get through check-in and border controls, while at Folkestone, the Channel Tunnel operators only said there was a “slightly longer than usual” wait for border controls.

In both cases, passengers who miss their booked train or ferry while in the queue will be accommodated on the next available crossing with no extra charge.

Last weekend was the big holiday ‘getaway’ weekend as schools broke up, and a technical fault meant that some of the French border control team were an hour late to work, adding to the chaos. 

But the underlying problems remain – including extra checks needed in the aftermath of Brexit, limited space for French passport control officers at Dover and long lorry queues on the motorway heading to Folkestone.

OPINION UK-France travel crisis will only be solved when the British get real about Brexit

The port of Dover expects 140,000 passengers, 45,000 cars and 18,000 freight vehicles between Thursday and Sunday, and queues were already starting to build on Thursday morning.

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