Less than a week before France is expected to vote in favor of relaxing or removing the 90-day rule for British homeowners in France, the Bulletin has interviewed the French senator, Martine Berthet, of Savoy, who has sparked calls for the limit to be eased or removed in Spain.
Q.— Why have you presented this proposal?
A. — The presentation of this amendment as part of the review of the Immigration Bill is The result of several months of work on the difficulties that British second home owners encounter in accessing France. In response to testimonies sent by several of my fellow British citizens and to comments on the ground in my own department of Savoy, I first asked the Home Secretary to work together on this issue.
The aim was to find a win-win solution: facilitate the arrival of British second home owners and increase the number of visitors in the affected cities by combating the “cold beds” phenomenon.
In this context and given the lack of response from the Government, the PJL Immigration (Project to control immigration, improve the integration bill) was a good opportunity to obtain information about this concern.
Q.— How can France make a unilateral decision when it is a European law and Spain, which wants to lift the rule, says that it is up to the EU to decide?
A. — As I have already said, the debate we had during the Senate examination on the PJL Immigration had as its objective both to publicly raise this issue, which is being raised in several regions of France, and to obtain some first answers.
The parliamentary shuttle (that is, the round trip between the National Assembly and the Senate to examine the same text) will allow all legal questions to be answered.
Q.— How can the British help you and the other French politicians who support you to make this happen and be approved by the French National Assembly?
A. — All parliamentarians, and especially senators, are attentive to the problems facing their regions. We hear. A first-hand account of the difficulties faced by the British on the ground is a valuable basis for our work.
Q.— Do you think the French government will try to block this project? If so, why?
A. — The Government had issued an unfavorable opinion on my amendment when it was examined by the Senate. However, in view of the arguments presented, it seems that this opinion was based on a misunderstanding of my proposal.
I cannot act as a spokesperson for the government, but my approach is collective. If my amendment is ultimately not upheld in the PJL Immigration, I look forward to working with the Home Office to find a solution that meets the concerns of people on the ground.
Q: While those with property are delighted that this important issue is now receiving the attention of politicians, what can be done to ensure that all Britons (including those without property) can enjoy greater mobility in France and Spain after Brexit without having to worry? about visas?
A. — The general question of the conditions under which British nationals can enter France or the European Union in general goes far beyond the subject of my amendment.
My approach was, above all, to start from the situations we encountered on the ground and solve them step by step. For the sake of efficiency, My proposal only concerns British homeowners because many of them bought a house in France long before Brexit and the tightening of rules.
I think it is important to separate the two issues because they do not pose the same challenges and they do not have the same timetable.
Q.— What can be done in France and Spain to reciprocate the generous and simple “6 months per visit per country” visa exemption that the UK currently grants to all French and Spanish visitors?
A.— I don’t know the situation in Spain. As a French parliamentarian, I have no desire to interfere in what is happening in Spain. I’m only worried about the situation in France.
Q.—When Brexit happened, do you think British citizens should have benefited from the same type of bilateral agreements that certain nationalities (USA, Canada, New Zealand and others) get in France and Spain… in addition to the Schengen visa exemption that they all get today ? Would this have prevented the terrible situation of the last three years?
A. — The negotiations were long and complicated. They didn’t go in this direction.
Q.— How can border controls between the United Kingdom and Schengen countries be accelerated? Do you think ETIAS and its British equivalent will make the situation worse?
A. — I have not investigated this.
Q.— We think your ideas are excellent, but the French Government has indicated that the current 6-month VLS-T visa regime is adequate for people affected by Brexit. How do you respond to that?
A. — My amendment aims precisely to respond to the difficulties encountered during the last three years. In the course of my work, I have found that people who want to stay in France for a long period of time and obtain a residence permit or visa face a long and complex procedure due to numerous technical problems. (malfunction of the TLS contact website, few appointments available, etc.). It is important to note, however, that these difficulties unfortunately have their roots in the sovereign decision of the British people to leave the European Union.
Q.— What about people who have been renting their homes in France, perhaps on long-term leases since before Brexit? Could these measures help them too?
TO. – My proposal focuses above all on British owners who want to visit France more and more and for longer. It offers them an entry procedure more suitable to their style of stay than the current rule of 90 days in 180 days or the long-stay visa procedure.
Once this principle is established, an implementing decree will specify the practical details of this provision, should it be maintained in the final text of the PJL Immigration.
Q.— Will the EU have to authorize France to do this?
A.— It is too early to say. First of all, it is important that the PJL Immigration parliamentary shuttle ends in France.
Q.— French citizens can visit the UK for up to six months per visit without needing a visa, even if they do not own property in the UK. What about the 90-day limit in 180 days, which is shared between 27 countries? Would you like to change this to allow British people to visit France on the same conditions as French people visit the UK?
A. — See question 5
Q.— Would you like the United Kingdom to become part of the European Union again?
A. — The answer to this question lies, above all, with the British people.
All I can say is that the difficulties we are experiencing originate, first and foremost, in the sovereign decision of the British people in 2016 to leave the European Union.
Q.— How confident are you that the motion will be approved and when the vote will take place?
TO. – I believe that the adoption of this amendment demonstrates the importance that the Senate attaches to the Franco-British relationship.
The LDP’s Immigration review began at the end of November in the National Assembly and should end just before Christmas.
I hope that, on this occasion, parliamentarians will be sensitive to this issue and decide to maintain this provision in the text.
However, although I have received expressions of sympathy from several fellow Members, I have no idea whether this measure will ultimately be retained in the text.
The article has just been eliminated by the Legal Commission of the National Assembly, after a close vote.
Deputies still have the opportunity to reinstate the article in public session.
If this were not the case, we would use these debates as a working basis for the construction of a balanced solution that would respond to the difficulties identified.