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The French Airport Passport Challenge (Pt 2)

The first part of my harrowing passport tale took readers through the odd and at times utterly scary moments I experienced while trying to travel from France to England on my Barbadian passport.

That airport experience – and others – led me to realise that passports are not created equal, especially as things are drastically different when I’ve used my British one in the past.

When I left off, I’d just managed to cross the final barrier before being spit out into the busy Charles de Gaulle airport. My next task seemed simple: Ignore the men with machine guns and find my way to the check-in area. Though I had hours to spare and Parisian exploration was suggested, my paranoia heightened. My interest was in the destination . . . end.

After making it to the terminal I rid myself of the “suspicious” makeup brushes. I wasn’t about to go through a strip search in the next wave for some perfect contours.

My pseudo-zen was short-lived. Sniffer dogs and their beefy, no-nonsense looking handlers entered the terminal. I paid little attention, until a dog took way too much interest in my bag. My stomach catapulted from my body and landed on the floor.

Stepford smile!

The dog was called away, but during their up and down trek, both dogs stopped at my bag multiple times. This made one security guard stop for a closer look once, but luckily all was well. Until . . .

Time to check-in.

I would show my passport, then my ticket, and voila, onward to the departure lounge.

Wrong again.

Instead of heading straight to the counters, there was a pre-check of passports. The male and female security personnel were friendly enough. The woman took my passport, peered at me, then my passport again and asked, “What is your business in England?”

With a bright smile, I informed her I was going to live as I was a citizen. For a reason I couldn’t get yet, she didn’t like this answer and asked me for proof. I showed her my expired British one, and as she started to shake her head, I wondered briefly if I was going to be stuck in France till ‘Wheneverary’.

She questioned me about why I didn’t use my British passport to travel. In this moment I tried to keep my head as the answer seemed obvious enough, “Because it’s expired and I’ll renew when there.” She didn’t like this answer either and explained that they preferred if British citizens travelled on British passports. Who are they?

In this moment the Caribbean woman in me tried to take hold, but I managed to keep most of the edge out of my voice as I explained how expiration works . . . again. None of this mattered. I was told to wait on the side while her colleague made a call.

“We have to make sure it is okay to let you through.” she said to me.

Stepford smile baby. Stepford smile.

Final part: Visas, weird questions, and how many checkpoints are there?

The french airport passport challenge (Pt 1)

I’m about to be very dramatic. It can’t be helped really, as I found out the hard way that having a Caribbean passport in some countries, doesn’t give you a leg up at customs.

This stage-play unfolded as I made my way from Barbados to England. New country, new life, new terrifying experiences.

Okay, let me back up and bring you up to speed. In late March I decided to quit procrastinating about moving to jolly old England, and just do it. What resulted was a flurry of activity, saving and absolute madness – but sure enough I was on a plane to Martinique by August. I can almost hear you ask – Martinique? Thought you said England? That brings me to part two of this backstory.

I’m a lover of deals and in this case, all I had to do for a cheaper fare was find my butt in two other airports before ever setting eyes on balls of fluff – sheep – from above the British countryside. Caught up? Okay, moving on.

After nearly missing my connecting flight in Martinique, as Air Antilles was late, I enjoyed a welcome respite on my XL Airways flight to France. So innocent then, I believed transitioning from flight to customs would be a breeze.

Wrong.

In the past while I’ve travelled on my British passport, I’ve never had any problems and gave no thought that it could be different on the Barbadian blue.

After heading into the security check line for what would be my first challenge, I took my passport out and shuffled on until it was my turn.

The officer took a long, puzzled look at my Barbadian passport, then me, before inquiring about my business in France. I chirpily explained I wasn’t staying and would be leaving in a few hours. He continued to stare at the passport, before asking me where Barbados was, and wondering aloud if I would need a visa to continue. Nonetheless, I managed to pass the inquisition and was promptly off to baggage claim.

Note, I had one piece of carryon luggage and my handbag . . . that’s it. As I approached baggage, I saw people flashing passports and rolling on through. From the looks of it most were British or European (EU) and I figured it’d be the same for me, so I flashed mine like I was on a cop show.

Denied.

This massive officer stopped me in my tracks and carted me over for a more intense check. To be fair, the guy who unpacked everything was pretty nice, even with the added difficulty of the language barrier, since I did not speak French nor did he speak English.

He did a thorough check and all was well, until he came to my makeup brushes. The moment he took them out I knew I’d have another problem. Following a discussion – in French – with his colleague, he went over to the X-ray machine to check my brushes one by one. So I’m standing there, praying to the makeup gods that the manufacturers didn’t have any suspicious-looking substances in the handles for better balance or whatever. I look serene as ever, while in my head I’m like – it’s okay, YOU’RE OKAY!  and explosions of fear are detonating within my stomach.

He didn’t find anything, and after making a bad joke that he didn’t understand, I hurriedly repacked and trotted off – finally -into the main airport area where I almost ended up being lost in translation.

Part 2: Nosey sniffer dogs, men with guns, and you just might have to stay in France.

 

 

 

What is happening with Brexit?

Where does Brexit stand and will it affect you in anyway? In June 2016, over 30 million U.K. citizens made their way to the polls to vote on whether or not Britain should withdraw from the European Union. It was a move that was facilitated and led mainly by the current members of the opposition, the Labour Party. The results of the nationwide referendum was 51.9 per cent to 48.1 per cent, the majority voting to leave. There was an approximate turn out rate of 71.8 per cent.

These results were not what many citizens, or even members of parliament, expected, including that of the Prime Minister at the time, David Cameron, who resigned after the referendum.  Theresa May, the former home secretary, took his place. In the beginning, she was against the results of the vote, but changed her mind and moved ahead with Brexit talks after determining this is what most of the citizens wanted.

It’s been over a year since the decision was made. Talks commenced on June 19, 2017 and so far the UK is scheduled to leave the EU at 11pm on Friday, March 29, 2019. There are currently discussions taking place on how exactly Brexit will work and what this means for British citizens inside and out of the country, especially those living in EU member states.

Britain joined the EU, or European Communities, in 1973, along with Ireland and Denmark. In a mere 40 plus years of relations, the withdrawal will mean a lot of changes. The European Union is basically an economic and political agreement between 28 member states in Europe. It is a single market that encourages seamless flow of trade, work, and studies for member states. In a move to withdraw from the EU, one of the major changes will be a tightening on immigration. EU members will not be able to come and go as they please. This decision was highly criticized and was thought to be one of the main reasons why the UK, mainly England, wanted to leave.

Under article 50 of the EU agreement amongst member state, it says there must be two years of negotiations after giving notice of their request to withdraw. Both sides have to agree to the terms of the split. Once a deal is met, it will be presented to the members of council in the remaining EU states for approval. The deal needs to be approved by at least 20 out of the 27 remaining countries. If Britain does leave the EU in 2019, it is said they will seek a new customs and trade agreement with the rest of Europe, and EU law would no longer stand in the UK.

Scotland and Northern Ireland have, however, voted to remain in the EU, with Scotland’s Prime Minister calling the move democratically unacceptable. This is causing questionable friction within the member countries of the United Kingdom.

As a British citizen myself, I am concerned about the changes that will take place and what this will mean for residents living outside of the UK when it comes to emergency medical care, work, and study travel access. The UK has said they hope to keep visa-free travel in place for British citizens and EU members after Brexit, but there is no solid guarantee. If this is not the case, this can mean several years of permissions and proposals and increased costs.

In 2019, there should be a clear view of the terms of the exit. The framework for withdrawal will need to be approved by parliament, but another referendum could throw everything into chaos. However; May has strongly declared there will be no second vote.

What are your views on Brexit? Comment below

Brexit vote causes loonie and pound to plummet

The Brexit vote has caused the loonie to plummet and has left many Canadian stockholders running. Britain’s decision to leave the European Union has upset the global market greatly due to the unprecedented nature of this event.

The Canadian dollar dropped to $76.28 cents US, after initially dropping $1.37 US on Friday and dropping another $0.65 cent US on Monday. This is a substantial currency loss and has put the TSX stock market into a frenzy. The Canadian dollar is expected to continue dropping to approximately $ 0.74 cent US over the next three months due to turmoil in the market over the uncertainty surrounding the Brexit vote. At the same time, many financial experts are expecting the market to re-stabilize because market overreaction is a typical response when a great global shift occurs.

Britain’s vote has left Canada in a precarious economic position as well, as our country has strong trade relations with Britain. Though many financial consultants are stressing that the market will stabilize, others are concerned for the future of the North American market. Canadian and U.S markets rely on Britain as a primary communicator to the EU for trade relations.Without this point of contact, trade relations may become more difficult as the British middle man pulls out of the EU. The free trade agreement between Canada and the EU called CETA has already seen resistance from other European countries since Brexit.  London is also the base for Canadian banking operations and this decision may put them at risk.

Another concern is what will happen to British stock portfolios when the country separates from the EU. The EU passport that accompanies several stock portfolios in the country create higher value when considering trade options. Without unlimited access to the other countries in the EU, people are looking to sell their stocks. When the market falls out of balance with panicked stockholders looking to jump ship, it becomes threatened and could cause further instability to the market.

Before the vote occurred on June 23, the British pound was trading at $1.50 US. The pound now stands at $132.40, a 31-year low for the country. The severe drop of the pound is causing reverberations throughout England and it is unclear whether recovery will be possible once they leave the EU.  There are rumours circulating that the Bank of England will soon cut interest rates to try and help stabilize the market. Cutting interest rates would help lower costs to investors while their stocks plummet, but will not be enough to restore the pound to its pre-Brexit value. The Royal Bank of Scotland had their shares halted after declining 15 per cent, and the Euro dropped six per cent as well.

Other “glass-half-full” investors urge Canadian to buy the cheap stocks while they are hot, as panicked stockholders will sell cheaply when the economy temporarily drops. The TSX market was down a whopping 210 points to 13,681 in the afternoon on Monday, reflecting that Canadian stockholders were panicking. Bank stocks swung the market heavily because they dominate the TSX stock market, and are easily affected by global impacts.

Another potential plus is the impact on the US economy. Wall Street experienced its worst day on the market in the last 10 months and this might push the US Federal Reserve to delay increasing interest rates as previously planned. This would be helpful to the Canadian economy as it would make stock options cheaper in the US, but could potentially continue to drive housing prices upwards due to low interest rates in both countries so it is difficult to foresee if this is positive or not for Canadians. The Brexit vote also creates a more nationalistic tone in global trade relations and could hurt the potential for the Trans-pacific Partnership, an important trade deal for Canada.

One of the reasons that British citizens opted to leave the EU was to help their economy. It was argued by Brexit supporters that the taxes demanded by the EU were too high, and maintaining a private economy would be more profitable for the country. The plummeting pound and unstable British market has clearly proven otherwise. Leaving the EU will weaken the British economy tenfold and leave it without valuable EU trade partners in the global market.

This EU exit is unprecedented in history and its impacts to the future are unknown — but clearly it will be dark days ahead for the British economy.