Campaigners will keep up the pressure on Spain and France to resolve the 90-day problem. | Majorca Daily Bulletin reporter


It was a bitter sweet sitting of the French National Assembly on Monday night when the highly controversial immigration bill, which included the motion to address the 90-day rule for British home owners in France, was tabled and elected representatives adopted a motion to reject it.

Discussions came to a halt and the text was rejected outright. It was a rout for the executive, and in particular for the Minister of the Interior.

MPs passed the motion on the immigration bill by 270 votes to 265. The majority was 268, so the vote was decided by just two votes, but it is not the end of the road for campaigns to scrap the rule for Britons in France and Spain.

Andrew Hesselden the Campaign Director and Founder of 180 Days in Spain, a sister campaign to “France Visa Free” told the Bulletin: “ Like the French group, ‘180 Days in Spain’ advocates for part year residents and asks politicians to find a solution to the 90-in-180 day problem that British people have come up against since Brexit.

“At first glance, this might look like it’s bad news for second home owners in France. But the Immigration Bill, thrown out today by a ‘motion to dismiss’, actually covered lots of different migration provisions, not just those that were intended to help British part-year dwellers. Given the opposition the government faced to parts of the bill, it was not entirely unexpected that something like this would happen.

“I think people have every reason to be optimistic, because Senatrice Berthet’s proposal has really put the topic squarely on the agenda of French lawmakers. Our own members were amazed today to learn that almost a quarter of French députés have backed or proposed some 20 separate amendments, all of which are designed to help part year residents in France. I think that’s incredible, given how difficult it has felt at times to get recognition of these issues.

“With over 7,000 members, 180 days in Spain continues to grow and attract interest. Our members have been lobbying UK government ministers in Westminster, Spanish national and regional politicians and also representatives of the EU-UK Parliamentary Partnership Assembly which meets several times per year.

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“The 90-day problem, together with issues facing French school groups and touring musicians were topics discussed by the latter when they met in Westminster earlier this month”.

Steven Jolly, the founder of France Visa Free said: “France Visa Free and its followers are of course very disappointed to see that the Assemblée Nationale has voted in support of a ‘motion de rejet préalable’ meaning that the immigration and integration bill cannot be discussed in detail. We were hoping to see it approved together with an amendment to grant an ‘automatically approved visa without formalities’ to all second home owners.

“That would have been a huge step in the right direction for the France Visa Free campaign, and would have been recognition that those with a home in France before Brexit should be allowed to continue living in their homes in just same way that they did before Brexit without having to make France their primary residence.

“The current visa process is time consuming and expensive, and really not equitable or reasonable, given that French people can spend 6 months per visit in the UK, even if they don’t own property.
“Ultimately, we want to ensure that Brits who lived part-year in France benefit from the same kind of protection that all other British residents in France were given via the UK-EU Withdrawal Agreement.

“But our campaign is not only for homeowners, and we would ideally like to see a more inclusive solution that benefits all British visitors who might want to spend extended periods living with their families in France.

“We are hoping France will help us solve the 90-in-180 day problem for all British visitors, regardless of whether or not they own property. So, ultimately we would also like to see every British visitor to France treated in exactly the same way as French visitors to the UK today, and given a 6 month per visit, visa exemption or automatically issued visa. Perhaps like the bilateral arrangements USA, Canada or Japan have. Such a France-specific arrangement would be in addition to the 90-in-180 day Schengen Visa Waiver that Brits would still have for use in the other 27 countries.

“We are enormously appreciative of the work of Senatrice Berthet and the many Senateurs and Députés who put forward and supported amendments to help address the 90-in-180 day problem. Eventually, we want to see a truly reciprocal mobility arrangement between the UK and each EU country, and I’m hopeful we will be able to continue working with French politicians in the coming months to see what can be done.”

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin “tendered his resignation” on Monday to Emmanuel Macron “who refused it”, following the National Assembly’s rejection of his immigration bill.