British retiree asks France for six-month visa-free stays

Gordon Knight, 73, is petitioning for reciprocal rules for UK visitors to be able to spend six months visa-free in France

1 February 2021
By Connexion journalist

A British retiree who spends up to half the year cruising French waterways has launched a petition to get France to allow six-month visa-free stays.

Gordon Knight, 73, says it is wrong that EU visitors can spend six months visa-free in the UK but the UK has not fought for the same for its citizens who visit the EU.

Mr Knight used to sail around the Mediterranean but bought a motorboat to cruise the inland waterways five years ago as a more leisurely alternative.

He has explored the length and breadth of the country and written 16 guides, with the proceeds going to a wildlife charity.

As a non-EU visitor, he is now restricted to cruising for no more than 90 days in any 180- day period.

“We can’t go now because of Covid, but next year we shall feel it,” said Mr Knight, who used to work in PR in London.

“The UK offers EU citizens visits for six months at a time. When the possibility of discussing flexibility on freedom of movement rules came up in the talks, the UK wasn’t interested. It’s extraordinary we [the UK] made no attempt to discuss the possibility of reciprocal rules for visitors.

“People like me are seriously affected. I could apply for a visa but it means going to London every year for an interview and with documentation – which will have to include travel insurance with medical repatriation. The cost could make it untenable.

“A lot of people with boats are not wealthy but cashed in a third of their pension or even sold their home to afford this lifestyle.

“But this could mean a lot of extra expense for someone in their 70s with a medical condition. They may have to give up.”

There is a petition to be sent to the French tourism minister (while the Brexit negotiations were ongoing he also launched one to the UK government).

“If France makes a unilateral decision on this, it could show itself to be the most friendly destination for British tourists,” he said.

He said he had read in The Connexion how France’s Europe Minister Clément Beaune recently said it may be possible to consider easing the rules for British visitors.

Mr Knight’s guides, written for the charity Aspas, are online here. He said: “The guides started because I would take photographs of the places we moored.

“Alsace-Lorraine is my favourite – a very different part of France, with very different culture and scenery.

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