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British ski instructor wins years-long fight to teach in France

The dispute took on a political dimension when the British ski instructor denounced "a blatant display of national discrimination by the French government"
The dispute took on a political dimension when the British ski instructor denounced "a blatant display of national discrimination by the French government" PHILIPPE DESMAZES AFP
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Lyon (AFP)

A French court has ruled that a British ski instructor has the right to give lessons in France, ending a long-running legal fight that went to the heart of Europe's labour laws.

Simon Butler, 57, was fined a total of 42,000 euros ($45,500) in 2013 and 2014 for repeatedly taking out clients at his ski school in the posh Alps resort of Megeve despite lacking French certification.

Local instructors who joined the case as plaintiffs accused him of unfair competition, implying that securing a license from the British Association of Snowsport Instructors was easier than meeting the French requirements.

Butler appealed the fines, which also came with a suspended prison sentence, arguing that under EU law his British ski training licence allowed him to operate across the bloc.

The dispute took on a political dimension when Butler appeared for a 2014 hearing accompanied by a spokesman for Britain's anti-EU UKIP party, who denounced "a blatant display of national discrimination by the French government".

In 2016, Butler filed a counterclaim against the Sports Ministry at the administrative court in Lyon, southeast France. Although he won that case, a criminal appeals court in Chambery upheld the original fines.

That set off further judicial skirmishes until last Wednesday's ruling by a Lyon appeals court that threw out the criminal case, according to two decrees obtained by AFP on Monday.

Butler's lawyer, Philippe Planes, added that Butler's newfound freedom to teach at the school he runs would not be changed by Brexit.

"It won't change anything for Britons already settled here, their rights are secured," he said.

"For others in the future, that will depend on the negotiations under way" on Britain's future relation with the EU, he said.

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