There is a huge irony to today’s visit by President Macron. It marks the 80th anniversary of Charles de Gaulle’s broadcast to his occupied homeland after the 1940 Nazi invasion of France, one of the most poignant symbols of the incredibly close connections between our two countries. Yet it comes at a time when our own government is doing its best to stop us from crossing the Channel.
三级成人视频The Foreign Office - in its wisdom - still advises indefinitely against all but essential overseas travel. It effect, it deems it too dangerous for us to visit even this most safe and friendly of our neighbours, one of our favourite holiday destinations, a country which has a far lower incidence of Covid-19 than the UK and which can be reached either by train or by ferry or shuttle in the comfort and safety of your own car. Not only that but, extraordinarily, the FCO still says officially: “If you live in the UK and are currently visiting France, you’re strongly advised to return now by commercial means.”
And if we brave the FCO caution then we are condemned not only to two weeks of self-isolation when we get back, but two weeks of self-isolation on arrival. This is the tit-for-tat arrangement introduced by France when the UK announced its quarantine rules would apply to travellers returning from all countries.
Except it is not quite tit for tat. The self-isolation requirement in France is voluntary and not formally enforced. While you may feel a moral duty to adhere to the guidelines, you will find it hard to find out what they actually are. There are no details in our own FCO’s travel advice and no detailed guidance on the French government, consulate or tourist board websites beyond the statement that “travellers arriving from the UK will be asked to observe a 14-day quarantine period on arrival in France.” You certainly won’t be visited, checked or penalised by the French police and will effectively be free to make your own decisions about what isolation means.
In practice this might seem to be the case in the UK too. Despite the threat of fines of up to £1,000 in England for those breaching quarantine rules, as far as we know, none have yet been imposed on anyone since the regulations were introduced ten days ago.
So it seems absurd that one of our favourite holiday destinations is not only still officially off limits, but there is no date set for when we might be able to travel there again without restrictions.
The French connection isn’t just about holidaymakers, of course. Around 200,000 Britons are fortunate enough to own a holiday home in France. In practice it is now perfectly feasible for owners to return - I know of at least one couple who travelled to their second home in France on Monday and had no checks imposed on them whatsoever. The trouble is that you won’t know what restrictions will be imposed on you when you get home to the UK.
Effectively what we have here is a charade. A French farce. Currently we can travel on a train from Manchester to London, or a ferry from Southampton to Cowes. But the official constraints on travelling across the Channel are extraordinarily onerous.
If ever there was an argument for a neighbourly bi-lateral arrangement, a sea bridge if you like, which would avoid these quarantine arrangements, it is for a reciprocal deal between Britain and France. It would be a welcome first step towards allowing holidays and travel to restart in the safest possible way.
Macron and Johnson are apparently going to discuss the possibility of doing just that. They obviously won’t be shaking hands. But someone needs to bang their heads together.