Fears of major delays at airports and ports next year and a dwindling British community in the south-west are two points raised by a new report into the effects of Brexit on France.
Issues for new British residents and visitors as well as for exchange students and school trips were also highlighted as was a lack of workers to carry out obligatory border veterinary tests and a drop in exports to the UK.
The report, published in June by the public finance watchdog Cour des comptes, claims there is a lack of agreement and insufficient preparation relating to UK travellers for the European Entry/Exit System (EES), which is due to launch in 2024.
Brexit means travellers from the UK, if not EU nationals or residents, are subject to this.
The first tests of systems for EES, which will involve collection of photo and fingerprint data on entry to the Schengen area, indicate it could take twice – maybe three times – as long to get people through border controls.
Concerns over UK controls
Particular concerns are noted for controls in the UK, where French border checks are carried out at Dover, London St Pancras and the Channel Tunnel.
“No positioning or deployment of pre-registration booths for EES has been agreed at St Pancras, and at Dover no UK public support has been announced at this stage,” says the report.
People might fly rather than take the train to avoid extra waiting, it adds.
A UK Home Office spokesman said it was working closely with the French government to be ready on this.
Eurostar declined to comment.
The report urges that an agreement should be signed this year to ensure that border infrastructure is in place.
Some €80million has been spent on new port infrastructure in France for freight checks.
Five new freight and passenger ferry lines between France and Ireland have opened.
The report notes that provisions were made for existing British residents and “the vast majority were able to stay if they wanted to” post-Brexit.
Young ‘bedrock’ of future UK-France relations
“However, in contrast, Brexit brings difficulties for newcomers, tourists and, above all, young people who are the bedrock of future UK-France relations,” it says. It adds that many school trips and exchanges with the UK have been cancelled.
Young French people can no longer go to the UK to work as au pairs or on work placements.
French students going to the UK face visa costs of €363, a ‘health surcharge’, high international tuition fees, and no UK student loans.
Visa-related costs for young professionals going to jobs are an estimated €6,590 (compared to €376 for France), which large firms will absorb, but not smaller ones.
Simplifications for school trips and general ‘dialogue on mobility’ were among items highlighted for future discussion at March’s Franco-British summit.
Joel Bailey, headteacher of The Old School in Dordogne, which prepares pupils for UK exams, said it no longer organises UK trips because non-British pupils need passports, which many do not have, or even visas in some cases.
ID cards were accepted pre-Brexit.
He said British families from around the world, and others wanting a British education, are choosing his school rather than returning to the UK, which is “becoming a less attractive place to work”, while UK qualifications are still appreciated.
Meanwhile, young Britons in France are looking to EU universities, which are cheaper than the UK and are increasingly offering courses in English.
Mr Bailey praised the French authorities over the residency procedures for existing British residents, though he said the process for remaining formalities, such as changing a five-year card for a permanent one, is “complex and protracted”.
Some older, more vulnerable people had returned to the UK due to paperwork issues, he said.
According to the Cour des comptes report, the British community in the Dordogne is “not being renewed”.
Mr Bailey, however, said he believes Britons will continue to come, though they are more likely to be well-off.
He had, however, noted a trend of more British newcomers settling in other parts of the wider south-west, not just the Dordogne specifically.
He also noted an influx of Parisians to areas such as Eymet that had been regenerated by the British, though it retains “a spirit of Britishness”.
The Franco-British Network, which helps British business people set up in the south west, says it is still receiving queries but getting qualifications recognised for British tradespeople is now an issue.
The president of the ACFAA Franco-British cultural association in the Dordogne, Claire Riley, said Brexit had seen a new trend for French schools – and French adults – to visit the area for a ‘British experience’, as opposed to going to the UK.
“They go to the English teashops, have tours of the town and come to us for conversational groups. The president of the cricket club gave a talk.”
Other points in the Cour des comptes report include:
Goods exports to the UK are slightly down since 2019, while up 32% to other EU countries
2,800 jobs in finance have been created due to City workers moving to Paris; n Insufficient veterinary and plant health inspectors necessitated by Brexit. The report notes that inbound UK checks are still not fully in place
Income from UK visitors was down 41% in 2021 compared to 2019, as opposed to a 26% drop for EU visitors
It also says that France was entitled to €736million of EU funds to compensate for Brexit and support firms, but expects to use less than a third.
Out of €400million earmarked for businesses, only one large company is expected to benefit, from a €22million grant.
France, and some other countries, obtained permission to redirect 70% of these funds to energy renovation instead.
We asked the Prime Minister’s office if it wished to comment but have not had a reply.
For the full Cour des comptes report (in French) visit here.