France temporarily lifts transit ban for EU-based Britons after uproar

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France said on Thursday it would show “tolerance” to the British in the hope of passing through the country to homes elsewhere in the European Union, after a surprise crackdown left thousands of people in consternation. travelers.

Under stricter Covid rules which began to apply this week, non-resident Britons can no longer cross France – only those with a French primary residence will be allowed entry.

Many Britons travel through the Channel Tunnel from England to France, using the Eurotunnel shuttle service, to transport cars from the UK to their homes in other EU countries.

But during the holidays, many returned to Britain to visit family and friends unaware that France had stricter rules for non-residents.

But with Britain no longer part of the EU, it is seen as a “third country” whose citizens are subject to the same rules as those of other nations outside the bloc.

“Unless they hold French residence, British citizens are now considered third country citizens and can no longer transit through France by road to reach their country of residence in the EU,” Eurotunnel said in a tweet Wednesday night.

P&O Ferries published a similar tweet warning that “only people residing in France will be allowed to enter France”.

“Compelling reasons” A French Home Office official said he had not changed his list of “compelling” reasons for the British to travel to France, but had clarified their request this month by border police.

“It seems logical to consider them like all other citizens of third countries, and not to allow their transit to another country in the EU,” the official told AFP, asking not to be identified by his name.

All tourist and business travel from Great Britain has been suspended since December 18 as France tries to slow the spread of the Omicron Covid variant.

On its travel advice website, the British government said France had indicated that the British would not be allowed to transit through France “unless they were traveling by plane.”

But “during the end-of-year holidays”, the border police will show “tolerance” towards the British returning to the EU, the French Home Office said, acknowledging that the displacements had been carried out “in good faith”.

The change, which France had not made explicit, caught dozens of Britons off guard as they prepared to return from family visits over the holidays.

” I’m completely lost. It makes no sense, “Fiona Navin-Jones, a schoolteacher who hoped to return to Belgium, where she has lived with her family for 14 years, told AFP.

They still decided to risk their trip to Eurotunnel on Thursday, where they were told at the terminal that the passage would depend on the border official.

“I did it, so I guess I was lucky! ” she said.

Eurostar, the passenger train service that many Britons use to return home to Belgium and elsewhere, also warned users earlier this month of the French rule change.

But it was not clear whether they were consistently applied at the three Eurostar stations in England.

“French rules stink” A Twitter user who was turned back at the last minute this week by French police as he attempted to board the Eurotunnel shuttle said he was able to return to Brussels by train.

“The French customs declared having received in the last hours the document clarifying the rule of compelling reasons. They even seemed a little frustrated, ”wrote Roland Moore, head of public relations in Belgium.

Paris and London have been at daggers drawn on a series of thorny issues, including fishing and illegal immigration, since Britain’s official exit from the EU almost two years ago.

This prompted several travelers to wonder if the new French policy was the latest skirmish between the two countries.

“Reason prevailed – but I am very sorry for the families based in Belgium with residence but no passport,” Navin-Jones said.

“French rules still stink. You can quote me.

(AFP)

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