Written by Staff Writer
Taking children to visit relatives during holidays can be heart-warming — except if it’s at the expense of preventing schools being closed to compensate for cancelled classes during Brexit.
That’s exactly what the government of France is now doing, in order to accommodate British pupils traveling to their summer vacation destinations in 2019.
Their decision stems from the UK government’s insistence that schools need to be operating for at least six months from March 29, 2019, when Britain is set to leave the European Union — as per Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty — to avoid disruption to the academic year in July.
This is according to France’s education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, who told BFM TV on Thursday (March 7) that the decision would not affect the current summer vacation period.
“We want them to come,” he said. “Of course, there are thousands of British students in the schools of France. But in other schools, students can be left on their own. So the only solution is to accept that. They won’t come during the summer vacation.”
To encourage fair competition, French schools will not be allowed to provide a free, open summer vacation for Britons.
“French schools are the French schools”
Last September, the French government announced that it would charge £5.1 billion — approximately $6.26 billion — to settle the costs of British summer vacations this year.
This decision will not cover all British tourist arrivals in 2019. But France’s government is aware that any dollar-based American students can travel independently to France during the summer.
“American schools are at the heart of the program. What’s important is that these students not be left without a place to live,” Blanquer said.
Some American families, he noted, might also be working independently in France during the summer months.
“I hope these students will be able to find their own accommodation,” he added.
A level of difficulty
For some families, the decision to stay home for the summer months may leave them to fend for themselves in France. But, according to Blanquer, this decision will have consequences for those Britons choosing to head to France without their families.
According to his interview with BFM TV, local immigration authorities have already informed the minister’s office that there has been an increase in requests from British citizens to change their passports.
Although the rules for documentation changes were unveiled on December 1, 2018, the influx of requests has already begun.
The suggested changes have been met with a level of difficulty by the British passport authorities, according to Blanquer.
The French government, meanwhile, has already approved 100 new documents, whose validity dates, required document requirements and conditions differ between nationals from different EU countries.
That said, it’s uncertain if the British will take the French up on their offer.
A difficult environment
“No one likes to change a family vacation,” Sarah Williams, a spokeswoman for the British Embassy in Paris, told CNN on Friday.
“The current system — where UK citizens travel under the UK visa waiver program — means that they get a visa to travel to France as a group, which can be very difficult for them and their families to apply for individually.”
She added that the UK government would continue to work with French authorities in order to offer options that would allow British citizens to travel to France without having to change their existing passports.
Williams said she didn’t know yet whether the British Embassy would act on the French government’s proposed changes.