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Covid: Will UK-France travel be restricted from January?

From January 1, 2021 the UK will be considered fully outside the EU - which may bring new rules for travel during the Covid-19 pandemic

The UK’s full departure from the EU on January 1 raises questions as to potential new travel restrictions linked to Covid-19.

This could affect both travel to France from the UK, such as for those returning to France in the New Year after Christmas trips, and future travel to the UK from France.

A European Commission spokeswoman has confirmed to The Connexion that the UK from January 1, will no longer be considered part of the European area with regard to ‘external’ border restrictions during the Covid-19 pandemic.

This is a logical consequence of ‘full Brexit’ with the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31, 2020 – there will be no reason from January 1, 2021 for the EU or France to see the UK as an exception to rules applying to ‘third countries’, a term referring to countries outside the EU or wider European Economic Area.

The Connexion has raised the issue with the British Embassy in Paris who told us the British community will be updated in due course if anything changes.

What could change for coming in to France from the UK?

The most pressing issue for many Britons in France, in particular, will be whether anything will change if they are returning home to France after visiting family in the UK over the festive period.

There are two main things that would logically follow from the fact of ‘full Brexit’ from January 1:

1. Currently if you want to come to France from most countries outside the European area, you need to bring with you a form called Attestation de déplacement vers la France Métropolitaine. The form includes a section at the end where you must swear on your honour that you do not have symptoms of Covid-19. It is unrelated to the attestations that those in France need to fill in when going out of the house, until December 15.

This form requires people to select one of a few, very limited, reasons for travel into France, including being a foreign national who is legally resident in France and who is returning home. The only other exceptions given relate mainly to coming to France to do certain kinds of work (such as medical work fighting Covid or transporting merchandise), or coming for treatment in a French hospital.

There is no provision, for example, to come for a holiday or even to visit a relative in need.

There is one other important exception to this requirement: If a country has been placed on an exemption list for countries where there is little circulation of the Covid-19 virus.

The Interior Ministry says this list is updated every 15 days at least, in partnership with the other EU states, taking account of the recommendations of the Council of the European Union, changes in the health situation and reciprocity.

The list currently includes such countries as Australia, New-Zealand, Japan and Singapore.

A European Commission spokeswoman said that the European Council maintains its own list and whether or not the UK is placed on it would be a decision for the Council to take. This may be in doubt as European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control figures show that the UK still has a fairly high rate of cases and deaths compared to many of its neighbours.  

The spokeswoman said the Council reviews its list every two weeks. It asks that individual EU states ‘gradually lift’ restrictions for the countries designated. The current French list closely, but not exactly, follows the Council’s last recommendations

The spokeswoman also said the EU takes the view that anyone with an ‘essential reason’ should be allowed to come into Europe from outside.

Recent EU guidance to member states includes advice that ‘imperative family reasons’ should be permitted, however this is not listed on the French government’s form. 

2. Currently entry to France from a non-European country – apart from those on the list referred to above – requires people to have a Covid-19 test.

For those coming from certain designated countries, notably ones where it is considered to be easy to obtain a test, France requires that they arrive with a negative test from the previous 72 hours.

This could be important for Britons coming back to France next year.

Those coming from the other countries – apart from countries on the exempted list – are required to take a test on arrival in France.

If testing positive you will be asked to self-isolate for a period of seven days.

What could change for travel to the UK from France?

The website of the Foreign Affairs Ministry states: “The external borders of the European area remain closed. In the case of travel for an imperative reason, information on regulations in place [in the destination country] can be found in the Advice to Travellers for each country. 

The ministry also advises registering for the Ariane service, which can provide you with updates related to the country you are going to. 

The Connexion asked the ministry what is included in these ‘imperative reasons’, however it appears that there is no actual hard and fast ban on outbound trips.

The European Commission spokeswoman said that rules on any possible travel restrictions to countries outside the European area are for each individual European country to decide.

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