The confusion – and annoyance – had lasted for almost two days before the French government announced Thursday, December 30, a temporary relaxation of the rules. Two days during which British motorists wishing to cross France to reach their European residences outside France were denied access to the Channel Tunnel. In question ? New French restrictions linked to Covid-19, of which the passengers were not aware.
The French interior ministry explained to Agence France-Presse (AFP) that it was about the application of border instructions, updated on December 18. Under this rule, intended to curb the spread of the Omicron variant, nationals of countries outside the European Union (EU) must have a “Compelling reason” to enter the territory and transit to another EU country. However, since Brexit, the British have been nationals of a third country.
On its website, the British Foreign Office, visibly taken aback by the application of these instructions, assured Thursday to ask “Urgently for clarifications from the French government”, and advised its nationals to check with carriers before traveling. This situation, at the origin of new diplomatic friction, finally led the French government to reconsider the implementation of these restrictions during the holiday season.
Many British nationals have surrendered ” in good faith “ in the UK for the holiday season and “Find it difficult to reach their country of residence”, the interior ministry told Agence France-Presse on Thursday. Place Beauvau has therefore decided to send “Tolerance guidelines” to border police personnel so that everyone can reach their residence.
Since Tuesday evening, the blocking concerned the British officially resident in a country of the European Union and who usually cross France by car to get there. Those residing in France are not affected, nor are passengers on Eurostar trains. French controls are carried out on the English side, before crossing the Channel, at the Eurotunnel terminal in Folkestone.
“Unless they hold a French residence, British citizens are now considered citizens of third countries and can no longer transit through France by road to reach their country of residence in the EU”, Eurotunnel explained on Wednesday evening, bombarded with questions on Twitter by bewildered passengers. The subsidiary of the Getlink group which manages the tunnel, mentioned a decision of the French government of December 28. The same rule applies for ferries: “Only those who have a residence in France will be authorized to enter France”, P&O Ferries said on Twitter.
Misunderstanding of passengers
The application of these new measures seems to have been done without prior information to either travelers or operators. On social networks, several British passengers have expressed their incomprehension after being refused access to the Eurotunnel just before boarding. This is particularly the case for several residents in Belgium.
” Tonight, [la police aux frontières française] refused me access to the Eurotunnel. I was told that being a Belgian resident […] was no longer a valid reason to transit through France in order to return home ”, for example tweeted Tuesday a Briton wishing to return to Belgium, where he lives and works.
As noted The media Politico, the accounts of other British residents in Belgium testifying about the page Facebook « Brits in Brussels » show the disparity of situations. “My children are Belgian, my husband is Irish and I am British with an M card [la carte de séjour belge pour les Britanniques bénéficiant de l’accord de retrait du Royaume-Uni de l’UE]. I showed my M card and my household composition and I went through without any problem », written for example Fiona Navin-Jones on the social network.
Contacted by AFP, this British resident of Belgium for fourteen years explained that she had read that the spouses of people of an EU nationality were authorized to transit through France. “Eurotunnel staff told me that it depended on who was in the cabin”, she nevertheless specifies on Facebook. Other travelers say they have passed ” no problem ” and without being asked for further supporting documents. Operators and travelers now have a few days to understand more precisely the rules that will apply after the holiday season has passed.
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United Kingdom: the new entry conditions in France create confusion among some Britons, temporarily prohibited from entering the Channel Tunnel