The first French nationals to visit Jersey under a post-Brexit ID card scheme arrived in the island at the weekend in what is hoped will be a welcome boost for the tourist economy... but how did the breakthrough initiative come to fruition?
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, a pilot scheme announced by Deputy Miles in March means French nationals visiting for a day trip – on commercial passenger ferries – will be able to enter the island using their national ID cards for a day-return trip between 22 April and 30 September.
To mark the start of the pilot scheme on Saturday, a delegation of La Manche representatives was welcomed by senior politicians amid a wave of French tourists in the Elizabeth Harbour terminal.
Those in attendance included Home Affairs Minister Helen Miles, Economic Development Minister Kirsten Morel and Deputy Montfort Tadier – president of the Assemblée Parlementaire de la Francophonie Jersey Branch.
Deputy Miles explained the scheme was the product of lengthy conversations with the UK government, involving External Relations Minister Philip Ozouf, an external relations team in London, as well as a UK-based Common Travel Area team in "daily contact" with Jersey Customs and Immigration.
"It really has been a joint-effort to see what we can do," she continued.
"Of course there has been chaos in the UK with the change of prime ministers, ministers and the like so that injected a little bit of delay into the process.
"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."
Deputy Miles stressed that the island has "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."
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."
Pictured: Deputy Kirsten Morel greeted the delegation in the Elizabeth Harbour terminal on Saturday morning.
He added that the scheme’s impact on the visitor economy was likely to be felt "instantly".
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."
Comments on this story express the views of the commentator only, not Bailiwick Publishing. We are unable to guarantee the accuracy of any of those comments.
Once your comment has been submitted, it won’t appear immediately. There is no need to submit it more than once. Comments are published at the discretion of Bailiwick Publishing, and will include your username.