And if we defy the FCO carefully, then we are condemned not only to two weeks of self-isolation when we return, but two weeks of self-isolation upon arrival. This is the tit-for-tat arrangement presented by France when the UK announced its quarantine of the rules applicable to travelers returning from all countries.
Except that it is not quite ticking about. The self-isolation requirement in France is voluntary and is not formally applied. While you may feel a moral duty to follow the guidelines, you will find it difficult to know what they really are. There are no details in our own FCO of travel advice and no detailed indications on the French government, consulate or tourism board of websites beyond the claim that “travelers arriving by the UK will be asked to observe a 14 day quarantine period upon their arrival in France. ” You will certainly not be visited, checked or penalized by the French police and will actually be free to make your own decisions about what isolation means is.
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 who violate quarantine regulations, as far as we know, none has yet been imposed on anyone since the regulation was adopted ten years ago days.
So, it seems preposterous that one of our favorite vacation destinations is not only officially still out of bounds, but there is no set date for when we may be able to travel again without restrictions. .
French connection is not only about vacationers, of course. About 200,000 Britons are fortunate to own a holiday home in France. In practice, it is now perfectly possible for returning homeowners – I know at least one couple who traveled to their second home in France on Monday and had no checks imposed on them whatsoever. The problem is, you don’t know what restrictions will be placed on you when you arrive home in the UK.
Indeed what we have here is a masquerade. A French comedy. Currently we can travel on a train from Manchester to London, or a ferry from Southampton to Cowes. But the official constraints on travel across the Canal are extremely expensive.
If ever there was an argument for a neighborhood bilateral arrangement, a sea bridge if you wish, which would avoid these quarantines, it is reciprocal, between Britain and France. It would be a first step towards allowing vacations and travel to restart as safely as possible.
Macron and Johnson are apparently going to discuss the possibility of doing just that. Obviously they will not be shaking their hands. But someone needs to hit their heads together.