There will no Manche Îles Express sailings between the Channel Islands and France next year - unless border controls locally are changed to make it easier for passengers without passports to travel.
Jean Morin, who is president of the Manche département, told French media this week that unless a solution was found by 1 May this year, then local authorities would stop funding the shipping company which runs the service.
“If the passport requirement is not lifted by then, we will have no choice but not to renew the service contract for 2024-2025”, M. Morin told Ouest France.
The issue is that, post-Brexit, everyone who travels into the Channel Islands needs a passport. That might sound straightforward to islanders, but in France many people still only hold a carte d’identité or CNI, which is a government-issued form of identity.
The CNI can be used for travel with the EU, and used to be accepted when entering the UK Common Travel Area before Brexit.
Holding a valid passport became a requirement from 1 October 2021. However, only half of France's citizens hold a passport.
Mr Morin hopes for flexibility in the arrangement – at least allowing day-trippers holding just the CNI to visit the Channel Islands.
This season’s Manche Îles Express sailings are due to begin on Saturday 22 April and conclude at the end of September.
According to Franceinfo, the number of passengers travelling with the ferry operator has halved since passport requirements were introduced. The news site estimates that for one ticket for one passenger costing €30, the département spends €200.
Before the pandemic and Brexit, boats going to and from the French mainland carried at least 110,000 people per year. In 2022, only 40,000 passengers made the journey, Olivier Normand, the sales manager of Manche Îles Express, told Actu France.
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