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France relaxes travel restrictions for EU-based Britons returning from UK

18:56 30/12/2021

Britons returning home to the EU after travel to the UK have been offered a temporary reprieve from the restrictions barring them from road travel in France.

The French interior ministry told news agency AFP on Thursday afternoon that it was relaxing measures during the end-of-year holiday period for UK nationals wishing to transit the country by car.

It said that it had decided to send “instructions of tolerance” to border police forces so that everyone could return to their country of residence. The ministry recognised that Britons had travelled to the UK “in good faith” during the holiday season.

Britons living in Belgium faced travel chaos returning from the UK following an urgent warning from Eurotunnel that they couldn’t transit France by car due to the country’s latest coronavirus restrictions. The strict measure also affected ferry passengers at cross-channel ports.

The travel rules affected all Britons living in the EU. France tightened restrictions on travel from the UK on 18 December due to the rise in the Omicron coronavirus variant in Britain. But the warning was only communicated by Eurotunnel on 28 December.

In Belgium, there had been confusion over the new restrictions since Brussels resident Roland Moore was blocked from the Eurotunnel when returning home to Belgium from the UK on Tuesday evening.

The public affairs director – travelling with an M card guaranteeing his residency rights in Belgium - was told that being a Belgian resident was not a sufficiently compelling reason to travel through France.

He was handed a document by French border police at Folkestone that said: “From now on, border guards should no longer consider as a compelling reason the fact, for a British national beneficiary of the [Brexit] withdrawal agreement residing in a Member State other than France, to transit through France to regain his domicile.”

Moore posted on social media: “Imagine how I felt. Stranded and deserted last night and escorted off @LeShuttle property like a criminal.” After abandoning his car in the UK, he finally returned to Brussels aboard a Eurostar train on Wednesday evening. He planned on recuperating his car when the travel situation became clearer.

Since Tuesday, there had been heightened concern over road travel to and from the UK via France with expats sharing their experience on the Brits in Belgium Facebook group.

The new rules did not apply to Eurostar passengers because Belgian and British regulations were in force at destination stations.

The British Embassy in Brussels said on social media on Wednesday: “We are aware that some British nationals seeking to return home to Belgium from the UK by road via France are experiencing difficulties and are urgently seeking clarifications from the French government."

Written by Sarah Crew