Brexit remains as turbulent as ever, with further wrangling in Parliament this week. Although Boris Johnson has agreed a revised Brexit deal with the EU, MPs have rejected the swift timetable that would allow it to pass by 31st October, the date when the UK is scheduled to leave the EU.
Now there are a number of scenarios on the table, from a no-deal Brexit at the end of the month, to a further extension from the EU, to a general election. But away from the House of Commons, what many of us really want to know is how Brexit will impact our everyday lives, including European travel. We spoke to the experts to find out more about how Brexit could impact your holidays…
What are the proposed changes to travel in Europe after Brexit?
Like everything Brexit-related, it’s hard to know exactly how leaving the EU will impact European travel. A lot hinges on whether we leave with a deal or not. If we do, then there will be a transition period until the end of 2020, with many rules likely to remain the same. If we leave without a deal, the current rules could be discarded overnight.
Travel expert Bob Atkinson told Cosmopolitan UK, “The key changes will be how we cross borders, the changes to health cover and travel insurance, driving permissions and the import and export of goods (duty-free).”
At the border, British passport holders will no longer use EU passport lanes, instead joining queues with other non-EU passport holders. “It’s possible that our passports may once again be stamped on arrival and exit, however this is unclear at this time” says Bob. “All in all, be prepared to take longer to cross the border when entering Europe. Coming back into the UK should not take longer than normal for the border, but you can expect greater checks at customs. The Blue EU lane will disappear at UK airports and ports.”
There may also be some additional border checks when driving, to ensure that goods aren’t being smuggled into the EU or UK without payment of relevant tariffs. Driving across the EU will remain the same, although Bob stressed the importance of the following from the moment we leave the EU, or when a deal is announced:
- Display a GB sticker on your car
- Check if you can continue to use your current EU driving licence until it’s expiry or whether you need to obtain an international driving licence. This applies to the EU, EEA and Switzerland.
- Obtain green cards for your motor insurance if the car is registered in the UK and you’re taking it to the EU or EEA area.
As for visas, Jordan Bishop founder of How I Travel and Yore Oyster, says “It’s extremely unlikely British citizens will need visas to visit Europe post-Brexit. In the most likely scenario, they’ll be in the same situation as Canadians, Americans and Australians: they’ll be able to visit the Schengen area for 90 days out of any 180-day periods visa-free, which is hardly a restriction for most travellers.” You can check the entry requirements for any individual country you’re visiting in the EU using the FCO travel advice pages, which are updated continuously.
The government has said that flights, ferries and cruises, the Eurostar and Eurotunnel and bus and coach services between the UK and EU will all run as before after Brexit. However, some bus and coach services to non-EU countries in Europe, such as Switzerland or Andorra, may not be able to run. Check with the company you’re travelling with for any delays or disruptions before you leave.
Will I need a new passport?
Although existing British passports remain valid, the UK government is advising that you may need to renew your passport earlier than usual if you plan to travel after Brexit. On the day of travel, you’ll need your passport to have at least six months left before it’s expiry date, and be less than 10 years old. To look at requirements for a specific country, you can use the online passport checking tool.
“Once you apply for a new passport you will be issued with a new design which does not have reference to the EU within it” says Bob. The government has previously said that all passports issued from 2020 will be blue rather than burgundy, although question marks remain over the timeline for this.
Will holidays become more expensive?
You will be able to continue spending money in Europe as normal, but there is likely to be a period of currency fluctuation, affecting the value of the pound.
“This will depend greatly on how we leave and what the markets think that means for the UK economy’s prospects,” explains Bob. “A dim view of the deal will see the pound plummet, making it more expensive for us abroad. A positive view could mean an increase in the value of the pound, meaning our money will go further”.
Of course, most of us have been feeling the pinch on holiday ever since the Brexit vote in 2016. “Markets then saw the pound fall in value and the result has been a 10-15% increase in costs for most trips and spending money,” says Bob.
Will my EHIC card still be valid?
If you’re a sensible sort, it’s likely you’ve got an EHIC card for European travel. This card entitles you to state-provided medical treatment if you become ill or have an accident in any EU country, or in Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
If we leave the EU with a deal, then use of the EHIC card will remain the same during the transition period (currently until 31st December 2020).
However, if we leave without a deal, the situation is more complicated, and the advice is to buy travel insurance to cover any medical bills, just as you would when travelling outside the EU. There is a chance that policy prices may start to rise after Brexit, as travel insurance companies will not be able to claim any costs back through the EHIC system.
Our government has said it’s “seeking agreements with countries on health care arrangements for UK nationals”, with the Spanish and Belgian governments saying that Brits will be entitled to medical care, as long as the UK agrees on a reciprocal arrangement. As for Ireland, UK citizens will be able to access healthcare on the same basis as they can now, whether there is a deal or not.
What if I already have a holiday booked for after 31st October?
“The essential thing is to check your passport validity and to ensure you have a travel insurance policy with suitable medical cover,” says Bob.
You should also be aware that certain rules may change, for example those around mobile phone charges. “Currently we have the right to use our mobile phones as we would in the UK when travelling in the EU, as governed by EU law,” says Bob. “It isn’t clear whether mobile companies will keep this pricing in place or whether they will look to introduce new charges for UK-registered mobiles.”
Duty-free rules are also likely to change, explains Bob. “We will no longer be able to move goods for personal use across Europe in the way we’ve been used to. It’s unclear exactly what will change, however it’s likely that limits may be introduced similar to those which apply to non-EU destinations. Watch this space.”
For more information, visit the UK government page on travelling after Brexit.