Home Madrid language schools School trips to Britain put at risk by EU passport rule change

School trips to Britain put at risk by EU passport rule change


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Brexit Briefing often attempts to measure the impact of Brexit on industry, commerce and the economy in digital terms.

This week, for example, when the National Statistics Office published its business data on British Chambers of Commerce observed that imports from the EU were £ 3bn lower than in July 2018, while UK exports to the EU were £ 1.7bn lower during the same period .

Remove the noise from the Covid-19 years and, unsurprisingly, it turns out that making it much harder and more bureaucratic to send goods to the EU reduces trade volumes.

But trade frictions are not the only barriers that have been erected between the UK and its immediate neighborhood, and the impact of these barriers, including on the movement of people, is much harder to quantify and will take much more time to have a visible effect.

One of those hurdles is the decision, which takes effect on October 1, to insist that all travelers from the European Union and the European Economic Area need a passport to enter the UK. , like everyone from other countries.

The policy demonstrates a determination not to recognize Europe as a privilege or as part of a cultural and legal tradition – so for immigration an Italian is no different from an Indian, a German d ‘a Ghanaian – geographic proximity does not matter.

This may seem like a fairly minor change to UK border policy that simply level the playing field with the rest of the world.

But considering that many Europeans only have identity cards, with which they can travel freely in Europe, the requirement to have a passport to enter the UK will have a potentially significant and mind-numbing effect. on EU-UK cultural exchanges.

This is especially true for schoolchildren who come to the UK in large groups from Europe for annual trips, often (so far, at least) using ID cards.

For third country nationals – an Afghan girl, for example, living in Germany or France – who would normally need a visa to travel to the UK, the EU has also created a “Travelers List” program. »To allow non-European children to travel with their group without a visa. This was also stopped by the Ministry of the Interior.

In practice, and in particular because schools in Germany and France have an “all go or no go” policy for school trips, this probably means much less school trips.

If you are a school in Europe and you have children who do not have passports, maybe from disadvantaged backgrounds, or non-European children who need visas, it is much easier after Brexit d ” go to Florence, Vienna, Madrid or Berlin. than London, Canterbury, Oxford or Stratford-up-Avon.

The school travel industry has been pushing for those under 18 to at least be exempt from the new rule, but to no avail.

A large group of French travel agents wrote to Boris Johnson last April to warn him of the effects of the move. France alone sends 10,000 groups a year – around 500,000 children – whose direct contribution to the UK economy is estimated at £ 100million. Germany sends another 7,000 groups.

They warned of reducing the number of school trips to the UK by “up to 50 percent” because of the new entry requirements. Aside from losses in the tourism industry, they also raised concerns about “the negative impact that such a decline in cultural and language exchanges will have on a young audience developing personal and professional skills that will be crucial for the future of our societies “.

The Interior Ministry cites border security as one of the reasons for the change. But like Antoine Bretin, the youngster remains director of the language exchange group Verdie Hello and co-signatory of the letter noted with exasperation at the Briefing, “we do not make many terrorists travel in school groups”.

British politicians have also lobbied. In the Lords, Labor peer Philip Hunt called the decision a “depressing publicity for global Britain” which he saw as “short-sighted.. petty and petty”, but ministers were unresponsive. The Home Office will not change its mind.

The only offer offered by the government, after industry pressure, was the so-called collective passport, based on a 1961 Council of Europe agreement that predates the Schengen free-travel zone, and which no one seems to know how to use.

The Home Office defines the parameters of Collective Passports here but the industry says that in reality, because no one has been on this route for so long, it is an empty ship and not a lifeboat.

Edward Hisbergues, Commercial Director at PG Travel Association who co-signed the April letter to Johnson, said he had written to French authorities every two weeks all summer but received no response.

The Briefing asked the Home Office for details on how a collective passport works, but they declined to provide them, noting only that several EU governments have said they will not recognize an issued collective passport. by the United Kingdom.

The UK will apparently accept passports, but in the real world it’s not at all clear that this is a viable solution, says Susan Jones, the boss of Linguastay, an organization that welcomes 10,000 European students a year with host families for four days at a time.

“The gov.uk the website says you can use a collective passport, but you can’t know what the fees are, none of the officers know and the government is not in the habit of issuing collective passports, ”says Jones, who received another cancellation notice from an EU customer this week. The school in question decided to go to the Netherlands rather than the UK.

The Interior Ministry says it recognizes the importance of cultural and educational exchanges, but it is phasing out identity cards because it is an “insecure” form of identification. “We have now left the EU and ended free movement, which puts EEA citizens on the same footing as non-EEA citizens who cannot use national identity cards to travel, “said a spokesperson for the Interior Ministry.

At this point, it is impossible to predict the impact of this policy in the longer term. Cultural impacts, unlike trade in goods and services, are much more difficult to measure; but people – just like trade – will tend to adopt the line of least resistance.

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Brexit in figures

The number of UK job vacancies topped 1 million for the first time, according to ONS data released this week, putting further pressure on the government as a wide range of the industry continues to warn of shortages.

Politics is often as much narrative as it is factual, and although labor shortages have more complex causes than Brexit, the end of free movement removes one of the long-standing pressure relief valves.

The Johnson government is okay with that – he thinks his points-based immigration Politics will eventually force the UK economy to become more skilled and its workers better paid – but that means the immigration promise to voters is to respect that side.

Like Kitty Ussher, the chief economist of the Institute of Directors told my colleague Delphine Strauss: “The challenge for the government is to put its money where its mouth is and demonstrate in practice how we can fill the vacancies by investing in our national workforce in a post-Brexit world. “

And, finally, three essential Brexit stories

Boris Johnson lobbied for a hearing with Joe biden. When the precious White House photo call arrives, what is the President expected to tell the British Prime Minister about the situation in Northern Ireland, asks Philip Stephens. Biden’s message, he says, should be from a sincere friend, if not from Johnson, but certainly from the UK: accept the deal.

Brexit is now widely a sunk cost, argues Chris Giles. He gave his supporters in London the levers of power they were looking for. But with power comes some responsibility and you can’t go on making life worse with a purist notion of Brexit without people noticing it. The UK and the EU have every right to cry out about the minor benefits Brexit brings to both sides, but they would be wise to continue quietly to limit the damage on big issues, he said.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should: a warning Tory ministers would do well to heed as they seek to break away European Union rules in the wake of Brexit. The government is considering removing an EU rule ensuring human controls over decisions made by computer algorithms would not only remove vital protection against built-in machine bias; it also risks adding, rather than cutting, charges on companies, says the FT editorial board.

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