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Eurotunnel passengers turned away over French transit rules


Only EU nationals or people with French residency can currently drive through France, even if it is to transit through to another European country Pic: Gary Perkin / Shutterstock

(*Update December 30 2021 at 17:30 - The Ministry of the Interior is now allowing a period of 'tolerance' for Britons resident in other EU countries who had gone to the UK over the Christmas period. This is provided that their journey to the UK was completed before December 28. Read more: Britons resident in EU countries now allowed to transit through France)

According to Eurotunnel the French government has modified its UK travel rules, preventing British nationals who are not resident in France and who do not have EU citizenship to transit through the country – even if travelling to their home in another EU country.

The firm says this was previously possible for British citizens living in EU countries but it is now only possible for EU nationals.

This means that any British person who lives in Belgium or Spain, for example, but who is  not an EU (or EEA/Swiss) citizen, is not allowed to drive through France to reach their home. 

This was reported by Eurotunnel after customers were surprised to encounter problems at the French border. When France’s new travel rules first came into force on December 18, British citizens had been able to travel through the country to reach their home in another EU member state, Eurotunnel says.

However, Eurotunnel says this changed on December 28. In a statement it said: “Following a French government decision on December 28, 2021, unless they hold French residence, British citizens are now considered third country citizens and can no longer transit [through] France by road to reach their country of residence in the EU.” 

Eurotunnel passenger Roland Moore, who lives in Belgium, tweeted that he was turned away by French border police. 

He was handed a piece of paper which read: “Until now, British nationals benefitting from the Withdrawal Agreement residing in another European member state could transit through France to return to their home. 

“From now on, border guards should no longer consider as a compelling reason the fact, for a British national beneficiary of the Withdrawal Agreement residing in a member state other than France to transit through France to regain his domicile.

“These British nationals are nationals of third countries and, as such, they are only authorised to enter France from the United Kingdom on the basis of a compelling reason, if they are holders of a valid French or European residence permit or long-stay visa and have their main residence in France, which excludes those residing in other European member states.”

Mr Moore eventually managed to return to Belgium on the Eurostar, after leaving his car in the UK. 

Mail Online was reportedly told by the French Interior Ministry that nothing has changed and that British nationals can transit through France to other EU countries as before.

However, a spokesman for Getlink, the company which manages Eurotunnel, informed The Connexion that the restriction was confirmed to him again by the ministry today (December 30). 

He added that Eurotunnel is therefore maintaining the notice it published on Twitter last night because the French police aux frontières have been instructed that the rules have changed. 

However, Eurotunnel will update its advice if it receives any further information, the spokesman added. 

What does the official advice say? 

The list of essential reasons for travel included on France’s Interior Ministry website state that people are allowed to enter the country if they are: 

  • “European Union nationals or equivalents, as well as their partners (spouse, civil partners or cohabiters) and children, with their main residence in France or transiting through France to their main residence in a European Union country or equivalent country. 
  • “Nationals of a third country with a valid European or French residence permit or long-stay visa with their main residence in France.”

This would not explicitly allow British nationals who have an residence permit from another EU country to pass through France to that country, as Britons are, since the end of the Brexit transition period, third country (non-EU) nationals.

However the essential reasons also include: “British nationals and family members who are beneficiaries of the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community". There is no explicit mention of their having to have French residency. 

The French consulate website states that: “If you are a European Union national, you are permitted to travel to your main residence, in France or another European Union country. 

“Your partner (spouse, PACS partner, cohabiter) and your children are permitted to travel with you, whatever their nationality. 

“At the border you will have to be capable of showing evidence of your main residence.”

Brittany Ferries also states on its website that: “Following a French Government decision on December 28, British citizens are considered third country citizens.” 

The Connexion has contacted P&O Ferries and DFDS to determine whether they have been given the same information by the French Interior Ministry and been able to inform passengers of the rules. 

Related stories 

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UK to France travel: How do police checks and quarantine work?

French flights and Covid cancellations: Know your refund rights

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