A DELEGATION of La Manche representatives was welcomed by senior politicians at the weekend as the first French nationals to visit Jersey under a post-Brexit ID card scheme arrived in the Island.
Home Affairs Minister Helen Miles, Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel and Deputy Montfort Tadier – president of the Assemblée Parlementaire de la Francophonie Jersey Branch – greeted the delegation amid a wave of French tourists at the Elizabeth Harbour terminal on Saturday morning.
The visit marked the beginning of a pilot scheme announced by Deputy Miles in March, allowing French nationals visiting for a day trip – on commercial passenger ferries – to enter the Island using their national ID cards over the summer.
The reintroduction of passport requirements – following the UK’s withdrawal from the EU – had caused the number of visitors from France to drop significantly, as only about 50% of the country’s population has a passport.
However, the new pilot scheme will enable French nationals to use their identity card to visit on a day-return trip to Jersey between 22 April and 30 September.
Deputy Morel said: ‘When I went to see the Manche Iles Express [ferry service] they said the moment we announced we would accept ID cards they saw an 80% increase in bookings, which is fantastic. It showed that the demand is there; it was just bureaucracy that was stopping it happening.’
He added that the scheme’s impact on the visitor economy was likely to be felt ‘instantly’.
Deputy Miles said: ‘We have very highly trained Customs and Immigration officers; they are all trained in [spotting] forgery, identity fraud and the like. So we are very confident that by allowing French nationals – and French nationals only – to come to Jersey for the day that we can maintain the integrity of the border and not compromise the Common Travel Area. That is where the negotiations with the UK were really important.’
She added: ‘I visited the UK personally and was able to speak to the relevant ministers. The whole purpose of me going was to assure them that we are taking this extremely seriously, that we are well aware of our obligations to the Common Travel Area and the integrity of that border, that we will not be undertaking any of this rashly, that it will be very strictly controlled and that we will only be doing it for day-trippers for two commercial ferry operators.’
Jacky Bouvet, first vice-president of the County Council of La Manche, said: ‘When you look at Jersey geographically it is close to France, so it makes sense that we do have a strong relationship and that we also allow passengers to come over easily and travel. It is definitely something that will help the relationship in the future.’