A British retiree with a Brexit carte de séjour has told how he was fined by port customs authorities as he prepared to take a ferry for failing to register his UK-plated car in France.
It is the first such fine related to Brexit cartes de séjour about which The Connexion has been informed.
A spokesperson for the Police nationale has confirmed that checks on this do take place but are random rather than systematic.
“I was fined by Roscoff douanes when leaving France and told that I had to register the car in France and pay import duty as I am now ‘French’,” Mike, who lives in Var told The Connexion.
“We spend roughly three months in France up to Christmas and a further three months in the spring. Unfortunately, because the two visits are only a couple of months apart, we would fall foul of the 90 in 180 day rules, so we obtained cartes de séjour.”
Under French rules anyone who moves to France with a foreign-plated car has one month in which to register the vehicle and change its registration plates, according to government information site Service-public.fr.
The fact that Mike has a 10-year withdrawal agreement carte de séjour suggests that he had been resident in the country for five years in December 2020 and has therefore would have run out of time to re-register a car he imported from the UK.
To customs officers, it does not matter how much time he spends in France: his carte de séjour shows he is resident.
The only exception is that holders of ‘permanent’ WA Brexit cards (issued for ten-years and then renewable) can move away from France for up to five years and still maintain a right of residence here during that time. This was agreed as part of the Brexit negotiations. It is not the situation in this case.
Not complying with the rules and not re-registering a vehicle as a resident of France can also lead to issues if you have an accident as your insurance may be invalid.
Mike said that the issue began on arrival at Roscoff: “The immigration officer asked to see our car registration. He told us that it should be registered in France if we had cartes de séjour but that he could not do anything because he was immigration.
“He warned that the police or customs might, however.”
When he returned to the UK approximately ten weeks later via Roscoff he was approached and told to see a customs officer.
“The officer proceeded to tell us that ‘we are now French’ and are required to have re-registered the car.
“I argued that it spends roughly equal time in the UK and France and if registered in France it would then be illegal in the UK.”
French cars can be driven in the UK by visitors but not long-term by UK residents, who have a 14-day grace period in which to register their vehicle with the DVLA.
“I also argued that we were taking the car out of France, not importing it,” Mike said. “Finally I came up with my company registration saying that other directors also drive the car in the UK. This did throw him so he then went to have a discussion with three others, one of whom was the original immigration officer.
“After some time he came back and asked if I had a document authorising me to drive it which, of course, I didn't.
“He fined me €150 for not having the written authorisation with a warning that it would have been a lot more if it had been registered in my name.
“We do not keep a car in France [on an all-year basis] because of the high crime rates in the south and not having secure storage.”
The Connexion contacted the Direction générale de la Police nationale, which is in charge of France’s Police aux frontières, to ask whether all carte de séjour holders entering the country by car are routinely asked for their vehicle registration details if driving a foreign-plated car.
A spokesperson for the police said that they believed that the checks were random.