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New ambassador’s Christmas message of trust for Britons in France

A special column for Connexion readers from the British Ambassador to France Menna Rawlings

The end of a year always feels important. We reflect on the last 12 months and look forward to the next.

This December is especially significant for me as I will pass 100 days in post as British Ambassador to France. And what a few months it has been! 

While there have, of course, been bumps along the way, I’ve seen first-hand the strength and importance of the UK and France working together: whether that’s on climate change at the COP26 summit in Glasgow or on tackling the organised criminal gangs behind migrant Channel crossings. 

A highlight was welcoming the Princess Royal to Paris in October. She heard about preparations for the Paris 2024 Olympics and Paralympics and the 2023 Rugby World Cup, heard of how Unesco’s work promotes women in science as part of its 75th anniversary celebrations, and planted the first overseas Jubilee tree in the Residence garden as part of the Queen’s Green Canopy initiative.

When I was interviewed by The Connexion in September, I spoke about the importance of the Embassy’s work to support British people in France. 

Since then, I’ve met several of the organisations we’ve worked alongside during the change of recent years, including British in Europe, Remain in France Together, Brexpats Hear our Voice, the British Communities Committee, the Inter­-national Organisation for Migration, the Franco-British Network, and the Diocese of Europe Residency Project. 

I will maintain good links with the British community and be an advocate for Britons living in France.

I also mentioned how keen I was to see more of France outside Paris and meet people working with and for the UK elsewhere. I’ve now ticked off Lyon, Marseille, Calais, Dunkirk and Bordeaux (plus beautiful Joigny with my family). 

Much of our work supporting British people takes place in our offices in Marseille and Lyon: seeing how they go the extra mile to support Brits in difficulty was inspiring. 

With the new year just around the corner, those of you who have applied for residency under the Withdrawal Agreement will likely be aware that you should receive your residency permit (or carte de séjour ‘accord de retrait’) before January 1, 2022.  

If you have not yet heard from your préfecture, contact them now to highlight that. Do keep proof of your correspondence. If you missed your appointment, you should also contact them as soon as possible to clarify your situation. As prefectures’ capacity will be limited, please attend the appointment you are given if possible.

If you have questions, follow us on social media to be kept informed of our next online outreach event or Facebook Q&A session. You can also find information about residency, healthcare, driving, and more, on our online Living in France guide. 

Menna Rawlings, British Ambassador to France, and Princess Royal Pic: British Embassy Paris

I know, for lots of people, the festive season is a time to celebrate with family and friends, including those in the UK. While there are still some border restrictions in place – and travel isn’t easy or possible for everyone – I hope many of you will be able to see loved ones from across the Channel very soon. 

I’m planning a pre-Christmas trip to Wales to see my parents and my brothers, which I’m looking forward to very much: I certainly have hiraeth (a Welsh word meaning deep longing for something, especially one’s home) at this time of the year. 

Covid hasn’t gone away, so if you’re planning a trip, check our travel advice and consider signing up to receive an email if anything changes. 

I certainly can’t wait to give my two daughters who live in the UK a huge hug when they pitch up at Gare du Nord on Christmas Eve! 

As for next year, I’m looking forward to discovering more of this beautiful country and to strengthening our relationship with France. 

Trust, partnership, renewal remain my watch-words. Our countries have their differences, but ultimately our shared history, interests and values mean we’re inextricably intertwined: we stand together, looking ahead. 

Finally, I would like to thank my amazing team in our network for all their incredible support through the ups and downs of my first 100 days in this job. I couldn’t wish for more. 

There is only one way to finish this… by wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy new year.

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