France: UK's travel restrictions slammed by residents
Emmanuel Macron and Boris Johnson have locked horns in recent months as tensions rise over Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic. The French President has been one of the fiercest opponents of Britain leaving the EU and post-Brexit arrangements, particularly over fishing, has been a source of contention.
The supply of coronavirus vaccines and travel rules has also been a major flash point between the two sides.
One senior French official said: “It’s difficult every day, there is bad faith every day.”
Peter Ricketts, a former British ambassador to France, added: “It’s as bad as I can remember it.”
Emmanuel Macron is a fierce opponent of Brexit
Tensions have soared over post-Brexit fishing rights
Last December, ties hit a new low after France shut its borders over coronavirus fears and blocked freight from crossing the Channel.
Britain finally left the EU in January and French fishermen have since raged over access to UK waters – with ministers in Paris even threatening to cut off electricity supply to Jersey.
Most recently travel restrictions have triggered a fresh diplomatic row after France was placed on a so-called “amber-plus” category, which means fully vaccinated people must quarantine.
Georgina Wright, head of the Europe Program at French think tank Institut Montaigne, says the contrasting relationship both countries have adopted towards the European Union has underpinned the differences.
Fully-vaccinated Britons must quarantine when returning from France
She said: “If you take President Macron, one of his central pillars is the EU.
“The fact that the UK Government is so openly confrontational and doesn’t want a structured relationship with the EU makes the Franco-British bilateral relationship more difficult.
“The Brexit negotiations, because of the politics, have soured some of the constructive thinking about what the UK and France can do post-Brexit.”
The UK placed France on a new travel list on July 19 amid fears over the spread of the Beta or South African variant.
The rules change requires all passengers to quarantine for 10 days upon returning to Britain.
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Emmanuel Macron was elected in 2017
Fully-vaccinated Britons arriving back from other amber list destinations are no longer subject to self-isolation rules when coming home.
The move continues to cause outrage in France, with Clement Beaune, Secretary of State for European affairs, branding the decision “excessive and frankly incomprehensible”.
Speaking on Thursday, he said: "If I understood correctly, it is in the name of the Beta variant, the infamous variant from South Africa, which represents less than 5 percent of the cases in France and mostly in the overseas territories which are not concerned by the flows towards the United Kingdom.
"This is scientifically unfounded. It is a discriminatory decision, I think, towards the French, because all Europeans, even from countries with more difficult health situations than ours - because of the Delta variant or else - are not concerned, or no longer concerned, by the quarantine.
"It is excessive and frankly incomprehensible from a health point of view."
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A profile of French President Emmanuel Macron
Transport Secretary Grant Shapps has defended the move, he said: “The Beta variant, it is not just - as has been reported - on an island thousands of miles away, it was also an issue in particular in northern France.
“So it has been an overall concern.”
Meanwhile, the two countries have agreed to work closely to curb the number of migrants crossing the English Channel after record numbers of men, women and children have so far made the dangerous journey in 2021.
France will double the number of beach patrols with London and Paris sharing intelligence as part of a £54million deal.