British Ambassador to France: Looking ahead to 2021
Every month the British Ambassador to France, Ed Llewellyn, shares an insight into his role. Here, read his column for December
As I write, we are back in lockdown in France and the UK, as both countries act to stop the spread of the second wave of coronavirus.
Although the numbers of patients in hospital remain high, the measures we are all taking do seem to be starting to have an impact. News on vaccines is also promising.
But it is a worrying time for many, I know, particularly with Christmas ahead and uncertainty about how rules and travel restrictions might affect our ability to gather with friends and family.
As soon as there is any news affecting travel, we will update you about what it means for you.
In the meantime, we continue to adapt the way we mark important moments. This year was the first time in peacetime since 1924 that the Royal British Legion was not able to hold a Remembrance Day service in Paris. Instead, the Embassy created two online events – a private one for staff and a service in partnership with the RBL, which we streamed on our Facebook page.
The context made them particularly moving. Armistice Day this year also marked the centenary of the burial of the British unknown warrior at Westminster Abbey. It was moving to visit Boulogne and to stand on the quayside where he was carried aboard HMS Verdun for his final journey home – and then a few days later to pay tribute at the Arc de Triomphe, where the French unknown warrior was buried on the same day in 1920.
A century later, our militaries still serve alongside each other all over the world, as RAF Chinook helicopters are doing today, supporting French forces in Mali.
The negotiation on the UK’s future relationship with the EU continues. Whatever the outcome, this embassy will support you with information on what to expect and how to prepare.
We have just launched a new series of readiness newsflashes to help business. Our Facebook Q&A remains open every Monday evening and we are planning more online outreach events for you to ask us your questions and get the latest information about the actions you need to take.
The most important of these, of course, is applying for a residency permit via the French government online portal before June 2021.
A word about healthcare. If you are a UK national living in France, or who moves here permanently before the end of this year, you can continue to access healthcare here for as long as you remain resident.
You will, though, need to apply for a new Ehic card in order to access healthcare when travelling in another EEA country. Our “Healthcare for UK nationals living in France” page on gov.uk and social media have more.
I know exchanging driving licences remains frustrating. But the French government has confirmed that UK licences will be recognised after January 1, 2021, and UK nationals visiting France will not require an International Driving Permit after the transition period.
As we look forward to happier and healthier times when friends and family can visit again, this is one less piece of admin to remember.
An important moment this month – allowing us to look ahead to 2021 – will be the Climate Ambition Summit, as the UK prepares to host COP26 in Glasgow next year.
On December 12, the UK will co-chair the virtual Ambition Summit with France and the UN, both to mark the fifth anniversary of the Paris Climate Change Accord and push for the highest possible ambition globally for next year. The science is clear: we must respond to the threat of climate change and ensure a greener, cleaner future for us all.
Closer to home, we have been trying to do our bit at the embassy – we are delighted that our bees have delivered their first “crop” of honey!
May I take this opportunity to wish an early Merry Christmas to you all.