JERSEY’S tourism industry has received a major boost after a deal was struck to allow French nationals to visit the Island on day trips using only a national identity card.
The number of French visitors plummeted following Brexit, after which anyone entering the Island from France was required to show a passport.
Previously visitors could enter the Island after producing a carte d’identité.
Home Affairs Minister Helen Miles said that the change would be implemented for a pilot period, which would be likely to start at the end of April subject to ferry operators’ schedules.
The breakthrough follows lengthy conversations between the Home Affairs Department and UK government officials.
External Relations Minister Philip Ozouf last year said that the number of visitors from France, where only about 50% of the population have a passport, had dropped off a ‘cliff edge’ and confirmed that discussions were taking place between Jersey and France about how this could be addressed.
Deputy Miles said: ‘As a result of Brexit, we were unable to accept passengers into Jersey unless they had a passport. That was having a very negative effect on, not only our economy, but also our cultural and heritage links with the French.
‘So, for example, some of our twinning associations were considering having to fold because a lot of the members of the twinning associations from the French side couldn’t travel over for the day.’
She added: ‘What we have done and what we have agreed now, subject to working through quite a lot of issues, is that French nationals only – who do not have a passport – will be able to travel to Jersey on commercial shipping only, so that is Manche Iles Express and Condor.’
Deputy Miles said she hoped the move would help maintain cultural links between Jersey and France, while also addressing the significant decline in tourists from the region.
However, she explained that this would be restricted to those visiting for the day – who must have a day return ticket.
‘We’re not allowing anything longer than that and they will have permission to land in Jersey and Jersey only, so that doesn’t give them permission to move on to the UK. The security around this will be tightly controlled, so they will be arriving to a fully staffed Customs and Immigration control where every single piece of identity will be checked through the usual systems,’ she continued.
‘The difference is, if you have a passport, you can swipe it through electronically. If you have a carte d’identité, it will be done manually by Immigration.’
She added that if there was ‘any doubt whatsoever’ about whether someone was a genuine visitor, they would be refused entry.
‘We have an experienced group of Customs and Immigration officers because we realise that we are part of the Common Travel Area. This will run for a pilot period – only just for the summer season – and at the end of that we will review it.’
The Manche Iles Express ferry operator had warned that it could stop sailing between Jersey and France next year as a result of the post-Brexit border controls.
Deputy Miles said she hoped the changes would help continue the service between the two jurisdictions.
‘They are going to operate this summer but they would need to make the decision on the following summer. Of course that has a knock-on effect for us because [if they stopped] it then would remove a travel link to the Island.’
Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel said: ‘I’d like to congratulate the Minister for Home Affairs and her team for their work in delivering this scheme. This offers a great opportunity to improve our connectivity to France and provide a boost to our local hospitality and retail sectors by making it easier for French day-trippers wanting to visit Jersey.’