Tuesday, April 16, 2024
HomeLaura PerrinsFrench schoolkids? If only we were as strict with boat people

French schoolkids? If only we were as strict with boat people


PITY the French schoolchildren who, because of Brexit, can no longer visit the UK by merely flashing their French nationality card. It’s terrible, it’s awful; indeed Edward Hisbergues, director of PG Trips which has been organising school trips to the UK since 1981, compared the bureaucratic nightmare of having to show a passport when entering the UK to the Hundred Years War. Survivors of the Hundred Years War are not available to comment on the accuracy of this comparison. 

Many heads of French schools say regulations have become so complex and the Home Office so unwelcoming that they are now organising trips to Ireland instead. Good luck to them, I say, but I will also add that the last time I was there the view of the Palace of Westminster was not great from O’Connell Street, Dublin. You will also struggle to see Buckingham Palace, the Tower of London and the Cabinet War Offices if you touch down in Dublin instead of London. Oh yes, that’s the other issue, you can’t get to Dublin from France by train. Whereas the trip from London to Paris is extremely convenient – when the French are not striking or protesting or throwing a bin at someone because they have been asked to work a bit longer. 

You see, according to the Times there are two main difficulties since Britain’s divorce from the European Union. ‘The first is the requirement for EU visitors to have a passport. Previously they could enter Britain by showing a national identity card. Given that many French families do not have passports, not needing them to travel within Europe’s border-free zone, pupils often have to get one to join a school trip to the UK. The cost is €17 for under-15s, rising to €42 for those aged 15 to 18 and €86 for adults.’ Obviously, it is quite shocking to ask French families to shell out a whopping 17 euros to respect the entry requirement to visit an entirely different country, even one that is very close to you. And an extra 42 euros – what do you think I am? Some kind of foreign national? You must be joking. 

The other issue is that those who are not French must also get a visa, and it seems the Home Office is doing what the Home Office does on that count – namely, being very difficult. ‘The second difficulty concerns pupils from third countries who need a visa to enter the UK, a common occurrence given that 7.7 per cent of France’s population is not French. The visa costs €118 and families must travel to an application centre in Paris or other major cities to request one, a journey that can take the best part of a day from far-flung provinces. Before Brexit there was no such requirement, with Britain authorising French school trips regardless of the pupils’ nationalities.’ 

I for one would not want to be applying to Home Office for anything, between the work from home, and the sick days, and the holidays. I would be surprised if they ever issued a single visa. There clearly should be an improvement in how school trips are handled. Perhaps school trips should be authorised as a whole, especially given the fact that all of this is window dressing as the border is open on the south-east coast anyway. 

Overall, I have some sympathy for the French families and their school children, I really do. If only the Home Office were as strict with border security as they are with the passport and visa applications of French schoolchildren, perhaps we would not have had 45,755 people illegally entering the UK by crossing the Channel in small boats in 2022 alone, most of whom claimed asylum.  

However, I also think that this is a case of globalism gone mad. People should not assume you can just walk into another country with the same ID as you need to get into a nightclub. It is a case of the French displaying yet again a massive sense of entitlement. 

One of the first things I did on the birth of each of my four children was to apply for their UK passport. OK, I admit my husband probably did this as it is a bit of a hassle, but I assume that if I wish to travel to another country, a passport is required. Most people resent having to do ‘life admin’ but it must be done. I can tell you that a considerable amount of my time is used up doing life admin on behalf of my four children. Do I enjoy doing it? No. Does it need to be done? Yes. This is part of what it is to be an adult and indeed a parent. 

The French pride themselves on living the French way of life, such as not working on Sundays or preventing English and Americanisms seeping into their language. This is something I admire them for. In France, it is very much their way or the highway. So, they need to apply that philosophy when entering Britain. Just get a passport. Otherwise, how will they get to London and know what a hellhole Oxford Street has become?  

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