Channel Islands begin accepting French ID cards, quietly drop Brexit entry requirements for CTA
Jersey has been given UK permission to run a pilot over the summer to allow French day-trippers to visit the island with just a French national ID card, rather than a full passport as required for entry into the Common Travel Area which includes the UK and Ireland.
Only half of French nationals have passports compared to 84 percent with ID cards. In peak travel season last summer, Neighbor Guernsey is pursuing similar permission from the UK.
Lying just off the French coast, the Channel Islands have seen their tourist visitor numbers plummet post-Brexit, threatening the continuance of transport links.
As these visits were allowed before Brexit, the pilot would appear to be more a test of political will within the Common Travel Area (CTA) and EU, rather than any new system other than to now check the ID card holder is French as opposed to any EU national as before.
Common Travel Area, then and now
The CTA covers EU member Ireland, former EU member the UK and the Crown Dependencies of Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man, whose citizens hold variants of the UK passports (now blue since Brexit, a referendum Channel Islanders could only vote in if they had lived in the UK in the past 15 years). The Crown Dependencies were never part of the EU.
There is full freedom of movement within the CTA, an agreement that predates the UK and Ireland’s joining of the EU. The two countries committed to continue the agreement after Brexit.
Previous to Brexit, EU nationals could visit the nations of the Common Travel Area, with just national ID. This ended on 1 October 2021.
Jersey pilots ID card visits: one day, commercial ferry, French only
The entry requirements “led to a significant decline in the day trip traffic to the Island,” according to a statement from the Jersey government on the launch of the pilot.
“We are grateful to our partners in the UK and in Normandy for their help and engagement,” said The Minister for Home Affairs, Deputy Helen Miles.
“It is important that we are all working together to enable French residents to visit our beautiful Island and give them the flexibility they need to do so. Jersey has a longstanding history and cultural links with France and my aim is to make sure we create opportunities for this to continue.”
Figures collected by VisitJersey show a severe fall in numbers post Brexit, post pandemic. In the peak summer season 2022, Jersey had only 5,560 French visitors, only 28 percent of the 2019 level. The figures also show that only 22 percent of all visitors arrived by scheduled ferry. French visitor numbers have seen the worst recovery so far.
Only 49 percent of French nationals have a passport, compared to 63 percent in Europe in general, according to a 2022 survey for VisitBritain. ID card ownership was at 72 percent across Europe. The survey found that one in ten people in Belgium, France and Italy would stop travelling to the UK because of the change in entry requirements.
BBC Jersey reports that French authorities in Normandy’s Manche Département were threatening to stop funding the Manche Isles Express ferry as it was losing money. A Manche official said they had lost half their passengers. The ferry company also operates passage to Guernsey, a little further west.
The pilot will only cover commercial ferry passengers. Anyone flying or arriving on private boats will need to have full passports. In terms of it being limited to day trips, Jersey’s Customs & immigration Officers will conduct reviews of the pilot and work closely with ferry operators to identify anyone not complying.
There are currently no plans to extend the scheme beyond day trips to Jersey.
Guernsey wants in on French ‘short stay’ ID card visitors
Guernsey is also hoping to allow French nationals to visit just on ID cards this summer. The States of Guernsey are in talks with the UK Home Office for permission to accept the visitors and in the case of Guernsey, this could be for trips longer than a day.
Guernsey lies a little farther off the coast of France and ferry routes often call at Jersey on their way, lengthening trips.
‘We have been in discussion for some time with colleagues in Jersey at a political and officer level and the UK Home Office, regarding the issue of French nationals’ preference for using identity cards and the impact on travel numbers by sea from France to the Channel Islands as a result of the requirement for EU nationals to use passports rather than identity cards since Brexit,” said Deputy Rob Prow, President of the Committee for Home Affairs at the States of Guernsey, in a statement shared with Biometric Update.
“As I have stated previously, the islands are intrinsically linked by the commercial ferry network so we have been keen to explore any options that may assist this situation whilst being respectful of our position in the Common Travel Area.
“I welcome the announcement from Jersey and can confirm that it is our intention to introduce a similar short stay scheme in time for the summer season. We have some further work to do with the UK on this and will seek to provide an update as soon as possible.’
Northern Ireland staying in the EU single market led to calls for other parts of the UK to have the same privilege. The UK Home Office, Guernsey and Jersey declined to comment directly to Biometric Update on the privileges being negotiated.