French visitor numbers warning

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Condor Ferries have been in discussions this week with the UK Chamber of Shipping over the change, which is due to be introduced in 2020 or 2021 – depending on the outcome of UK Brexit negotiations. And the Maison de la Normandie – a Norman-Jersey diplomatic group – is already forecasting a decline in visitors.

At present, free movement within the EU means that identity cards are accepted as a means of entry for EU citizens but if the UK leaves the Union all those entering the Island from outside the Common Travel Area – the UK, the Republic of Ireland and the Crown Dependencies – will have to show their passports on arrival in Jersey.

Identity cards are free in France and valid for travel within Europe, while French passports currently cost 86 euros. The fear is that not all those currently entering the Island from France will have valid passports to use in place of identity cards, and may not be persuaded to invest in one for a day trip.

The chairman of the Maison de la Normandie et de la Manche, Jean-Marc Julienne, confirmed that many visitors arriving from Normandy currently used identity cards to enter Jersey.

‘Having to show a passport instead of an identity card would most certainly have an impact on the number of visitors coming from Normandy,’ he told the JEP.

‘Our office’s purpose is to encourage and facilitate the relationship, and co-operative projects, between the Channel Islands, la Manche and Normandy. Therefore we are concerned by any changes which could potentially affect travel between our jurisdictions and make it less smooth and easy’, he said.

Mr Julienne added that the Maison de la Normandie was committed to maintaining a strong relationship with the Channel Islands whatever the outcome of discussions between the UK and the EU.

A government spokesperson confirmed that, irrespective of their nationality, all those arriving in Jersey would be required to produce a valid passport after Brexit. The requirement will be introduced in 2021 assuming the UK leaves Europe with a deal, or in 2020 in the event of a no-deal departure.

‘The ability for people to travel without formal immigration controls within the Common Travel Area is a cornerstone of its existence,’ a spokesperson said. ‘Therefore Jersey has an obligation to control the southernmost border to the CTA.

‘We engaged with all the local honorary consuls, Condor and Visit Jersey earlier this year and will continue to do so. We are updating our website appropriately and updates are being given as early as possible to allow travellers as much time as possible to plan for their trips.’

Meanwhile, Condor – carrier of the overwhelming majority of French visitors to the Island – issued a statement in response to the new requirements.

‘We are aware of possible changes in immigration arrangements after Brexit which may require all passengers travelling from France to the islands to carry passports rather than ID cards. Our teams are exploring any impact this may have through our contacts in France and the UK Chamber of Shipping for us to then assess and determine options.’

Last year Condor carried 181,443 passengers from St Malo to the Island, while a further 26,171 arrived from Granville and Carteret. The latest figures for St Malo arrivals to the end of September this year indicate a 4% fall.

Keith Beecham, chief executive of Visit Jersey, said that the day-trip market was a substantial one for the Island. ‘Clearly anything that makes it harder for visitors from France is something that we would take very seriously’, he said.

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