Ireland deepens France links with Brittany consulate

Ireland on Friday deepened its links with France in the wake of Brexit by opening an honorary consulate in the western port of Roscoff.

Ireland deepens France links with Brittany consulate
Archive photo of the ferry terminal of the maritime transport company "Brittany Ferries" in the western port of Roscoff. An honorary consulate has been opened here to deepen links between Ireland and France in the wake of Brexit. Photo by MARCEL MOCHET / AFP

“France is now Ireland’s closest EU neighbour and Brittany the closest region to us,” said James Browne, Irish minister of state at the department of justice.

“This has created a Brexit bounce – even perhaps a Breton bounce — in our relations,” added Browne of the move to deepen links between Dublin and Paris by opening the facility at the port headquarters of Brittany Ferries.

“French businesses thrive in Ireland and France is one of the main markets for Ireland’s goods, services and agricultural products. We enjoy this freedom to travel and to trade through our shared European membership. Ireland is proud to celebrate 50 years of EU membership this year,” added Browne.

He underlined that “maritime connectivity has tripled and two-way trade in goods jumped by 18 percent last year” between the two countries.

Browne saluted Brittany Ferries president Jean-Marc Roue, named as honorary consul, as “a proud Breton”, whose “expertise and leadership in the areas of transport, agriculture and maritime issues will be a real asset in this new role.

“We value his counsel and will look to him to help us as we advance our common agenda for deepening Ireland-Brittany relations.

Stephane Perrin, vice-president of the Brittany region playfully welcomed the boost the move would afford “perspectives for partnership between French and Irish ports which we could not have guessed at, thanks to Brexit. Thank you Boris Johnson!”

Irish ambassador to France Niall Burgess said Brexit had created “new challenges for Ireland and for France. But where there are challenges there are also opportunities”.

Burgess said weekly crossings between Ireland and France had quadrupled inside the past two years from 12 to almost 50.

Roue stated passenger traffic between Ireland and France had risen 43 percent since 2019 and freight was up 15 percent.

Head of Enterprise Ireland France Patrick Torrekens said Irish companies were increasingly looking to maritime links to the continental mainland for their exchanges with fellow EU states rather than first having to go through now former EU member the United Kingdom.

That enabled them, said Torrekens to “avoid additional customs formalities” and potential delays.

Member comments

  1. Best route is still across UK Faster and cheaper, 20 hours from Dublin to Cherbourg ( they will say it’s less it’s not) freight will move back to land bridge when they sort the paperwork out.

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Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.