March opened with our online celebration of St David’s Day. It was my huge pleasure to discuss the cultural and economic links between France and Wales with French Ambassador to the UK Catherine Colonna.
We saw and heard first-hand the talent of Rhydian Jenkins, rugby player and remarkable opera singer.
Given my family’s Welsh heritage and the fact my grandfather spoke Welsh as his first language, I’m afraid to say that I don’t speak much myself.
In the run-up to St David’s Day, my colleague Elin taught me more about the meaning behind my surname, as well as how to say the beautiful (but long!) village name Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.
You can find the videos of my lessons on my Twitter. I challenge you to try! And then St Patrick’s Day was an opportunity to whet people’s appetite to visit stunning Northern Ireland as soon as we are all allowed to travel again. You can enjoy all these on the Embassy’s social media channels.
We work closely with France on all the great global challenges. Chief of these, of course, is climate change. The UK hosts the COP26 UN climate conference in Glasgow this November, so I was delighted to welcome its president-designate [British MP] Alok Sharma to Paris this month.
He met many of the key French players, from government ministers to energy experts to those who made the Paris Agreement such a landmark moment back in 2016. International Women’s Day saw us return online.
'Let’s be good ancestors for future generations'
Some terrific speakers, including Anne-Marie Trevelyan, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, as well as International Champion for COP26, journalist Patricia Loison, and Dr Rhian-Mari Thomas, chief executive of the Green Finance Institute, helped us look at the role that women leaders can play in combating climate change.
My favourite takeaway? “Let’s be good ancestors for future generations” – Inès Leonarduzzi, CEO of Digital for the Planet and Franco-British Young Leader. We also launched a chain on Twitter, sharing the names and achievements of women who have inspired us – and I was delighted to see that reach all the way to Mexico!
Of course, International Women’s Day is also about promoting gender equality. The horrific death of Sarah Everard while walking home in London, was a stark reminder of the threat facing women and how we still need to do more to ensure their safety.
The UK will continue to campaign globally for a world in which women and girls can prosper, with initiatives to tackle violence against them.
Three months before Brexit residency card application deadline
Now, it wouldn’t be a monthly column if I didn’t mention applying for residency in France under the Withdrawal Agreement. There are three months before the deadline. If you haven’t yet applied, now is the time to do so. My team are in touch with the Ministry of the Interior and prefectures up and down the country. We know from these conversations that they are taking a flexible approach and looking to grant residency wherever possible.
Even if you don’t yet have all your documents, apply, explain your situation in the comments box of your application, knowing you can add documents later if necessary.
You can use your confirmation email for proof of residence, if requested by employers or local authorities.
I know that some of you are worried about when you’ll get your prefecture appointment or card. The prefectures are working as fast as they can within Covid restrictions and still aim to issue all permits by October 1.
You can help them by applying sooner rather than later and responding as soon as you are contacted, including if you can’t make an appointment. While you may be tempted to ask them for updates, doing so slows them down.
And remember that if you need help with your application, the UK Nationals’ Support Fund organisations are there to help you. You can find out more about them in our Living in France Guide or through our monthly newsletter Voisins Voices.