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Lorries near the port of Calais. A no-deal Brexit could lead to delays for freight movements across the Channel. Photograph: AFP/Getty Images

France says Britons could need visa to visit after no-deal Brexit

WT24 Desk

The French government has said a no-deal Brexit would leave Britons needing visas to visit France and put UK nationals already living there in an “irregular” legal situation, The Guardian reports.

It has published a draft bill aimed at addressing the consequences of the UK crashing out of the EU without any agreement. British citizens living in France would immediately become “third-country nationals”, preventing them from holding certain jobs and limiting access to healthcare and welfare, and passenger travel and freight movements across the Channel would be delayed.

The bill outlines seven areas of concern covering Britons’ right to visit, live and work in France. It gives the French government power to introduce new legal measures where necessary by emergency decree, as opposed to parliamentary vote, within 12 months of the law being passed.

It does not detail exactly how France intends to address the consequences of a hard Brexit, but says any measures are likely to depend on reciprocal agreements with the UK government.

“The government is very aware of the situation and rights of French citizens settled in the UK,” the draft bill states. “The government will take appropriate measures regarding the situation of UK citizens in France. It will take account of the status the UK gives our citizens on its territory.”

Britain is scheduled to leave the EU at 11pm UK time on 29 March 2019. Any failure to reach an exit deal would leave Britons living in the remaining 27 EU nations and around three million EU citizens living in the UK facing an uncertain future.

“In the event of a withdrawal without agreement, British citizens and their family members who until now had the right to free movement and free settlement in the whole European Union become third-country citizens and will as a consequence be subject, in principle, to common law. That is to say, obliged to present a visa to enter French territory and to hold a residence permit to remain there,” the proposed bill says.

“In case of a withdrawal without agreement, British citizens with a work contract under French law with a French employer could be asked for a document authorising them to work in France, as the regulations under the code du travail [labour law] require when employing foreigners.”

It points out that certain professions, including doctor, pharmacist, tobacconist and jobs in public services, are mostly restricted to French and EU/EEC nationals.

French Channel ports as well as passenger and freight transporters are already planning for a no-deal Brexit, which the bill says would result in “the reinstating of formalities/controls on goods and passengers to and from the UK”

Last week Thierry Grumiaux, of the National Federation of Road Transporters, said a delay of two minutes per vehicle for extra customs checks would led to 16-mile (27km) tailbacks on roads around major French ports. Local officials say up to €30m investment would be needed to make French ports ready for a hard Brexit.

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