Brexit disrupts language journey to UK – Opportunity for Ireland?

Irlande sur la carte

At the top of Carlton Hill, the view of Edinburgh is breathtaking, with sunshine penetrating under the gray clouds and the North Sea in the distance. “Wonder!” (Beautiful) One of Sarah Lepiufil’s students shouts in English.

A group of about fifty college students from Colmer, Alsace (eastern France), who arrived in Scotland a few days ago, were one of the first to set foot on British soil since the outbreak.

But new procedures after the border break-in, which came into effect in October, have turned the organization of the language journey into a real “barrier course,” says the English teacher.

Passports are now mandatory, and for some students from non-European countries, a visa worth 100 100 (approximately യൂറോ 120) is a must, even if they live in the EU.

College students from Colmer, east of France, visit Edinburgh during a linguistic school trip to Scotland on May 23, 2022, AFP / Andy Buchanan

“Every year I leave college before Brexit. There, it gets more complicated,” Summarizes Miss Lepiuff, who struggled to make sure students had their papers on time. Not all teachers are the same.

Schools are leaving the United Kingdom as demand for language school trips rises again after the closure of Kovid. For the benefit of IrelandMalta, or even language immersion, continues in France.

According to Edward Hisbergs, the group’s trip organizer from Colmar, 80% of requests from English teachers were once seen going to the United Kingdom. This year it is less than 10%, mostly due to administrative limitations.

“Disappointed at the loss of everything”

On the British side, this is an entire region with an army of its guides or host families, already devastated by the epidemic, which is frustrating to see the return of students not only from France but also from Germany, Italy or Spain.

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Beta UK, a regional company, fears a shortfall of at least two to three billion pounds a year, with travel 60 to 70% lower this year than before the Pandemic.

College students traveling by bus to Scotland
AFP / Andy Buchanan On May 23, 2022, during a linguistic school trip to Scotland, college students from Colmer, eastern France, visit Edinburgh by bus.

It’s a question of image for the organization’s president Steve Lowe, while “more than a million students” visit the country each year and develop a “long-term relationship” with the UK, he said.

There is a perception that “we are not welcome and not open to people from Europe”, which will cause long-term damage to the country, he laments.

13-year-old Aaron Shattzel is happy to be free. “Since sixth grade, there have been no trips, everything has been canceled because of Kovid, in prison,” this fourth-grader breathes.

In Colmar, some parents of students contacted local town halls to make sure they had passports before leaving.

College students from Colmer on a language trip to Scotland
College students from Colmer, east of France, visit Edinburgh during a linguistic school trip to Scotland on May 23, 2022, AFP / Andy Buchanan

Others have dropped the cost of an identity card – 17 to 42 euros for teenagers – or visa complications. This is the case of Elizabeth Schapk, a Russian citizen who has lived in France for 25 years.

During the time of the European Union, she could go with her comrades thanks to a collective travel document. “I had to leave because I was Russian,” she says in frustration.

Security questions?

The region hopes the British government will return to more flexibility, arguing that a group of students do not pose a high security risk.

According to a recent poll released by Beta UK, a majority of Britons are in favor of reducing school travel procedures.

London replies that another collective passport exists under the 1961 agreement signed within the framework of the Council of Europe, which remains valid despite the Brexit.

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But this is far from solving all the problems: for example, French tour operators have never used it and are waiting for the French government to define the procedure for obtaining it.

Other countries, such as Germany, have not signed the treaty, and only citizens of the country of departure are allowed to travel under any circumstances.

From the top of Carlton Hill, guide Marilyn Hunter enthusiastically tells students at Colmer about Scotland’s landscape, its history, and the world-famous history of its whiskey and salmon.

The joy of seeing school trips back after the Pandemic is ruining Brexit. Last week, a group of German students abandoned four students who had not received their visas in time.

Olivier Devos, Damien Stroka and Julian Sengel of Colmar

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