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The United Kingdom joined the European Communities, which later became the EU (European Union), on the 1st of January 1973. After 48 years as an EU member and four and a half years of back and forth to negotiate the terms of our exit, the UK has officially left the European Union.
So what does the deal negotiated by Boris Johnson look like and how much of an impact will Brexit have on your holidays to Europe?
As it turned out, it will cause significantly less disruption to UK travellers than originally anticipated.
Here are the 9 things you need to know about Brexit and your future travel plans to Europe.
You will still be able to travel
Whilst there were never any doubts about this part of the agreement, it is great to see that even though the UK will no longer be treated like a member of the EU, UK travellers will still be able to travel to Europe in a post-Brexit world.
Beware of Covid travel restrictions
However, be aware that since the discovery of a new strain of the Covid-19 virus in the UK in December 2020, and the fact that various European countries have imposed travel restrictions on non-EU countries, you will not be able to travel to most European countries except for essential reasons or unless you are a citizen or resident of that country.
It is likely however that the EU or individual EU countries choose to create a “travel corridor” with the UK as and when the situation linked to Covid-19 improves.
Once all Covid travel restrictions have been completely lifted, you will be able to freely travel as a tourist to all EU countries, as well as Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein - without needing a visa.
This brings us to our next point.
You won't need a visa
Providing that you are not intending to stay in Europe for more than 90 days in any 180-day period, you will be able to travel and stay up to 90 days, either as one or multiple trips.
In practice, you could go away for a romantic weekend break in Venice to celebrate for Valentine’s Day with your loved one, followed by a week-long break to Barcelona over Easter, then a 2-week holiday in the south of France over the summer and finally another weekend getaway to Vienna to enjoy the Christmas markets and you would be covered by your 90-day limit.
Alternatively, you could take a 90-day sabbatical and travel across various European countries, and you would still be covered by your 90-day limit, providing that you did not plan on going to Europe within the following 90-days as the 180-day period would still apply.
Regardless of the type of EU travel you choose to do, you will not need a visa in a post Brexit world, but you will need to have a valid UK passport.
The good news is that the rules for Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are different and you could make a 90-day trip to any of these countries and still not use up your 90-day allowance for other EU countries.
What about for business or longer periods?
All of this applies to leisure travellers that do not intend to stay in Europe for more than 90 days in any 180-day period, and it is worth noting that you may need a visa or permit to stay for longer, to work, to study, or if you are travelling for business.
New visa-free agreement from 2022
However, from late 2022 onwards, visitors from countries with visa-free agreements with the EU (including the UK), will not be able to enter the Schengen Area with only their passports. UK citizens will need to pay a fee to visit Europe and will need to complete the online ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) application form before leaving, a process similar to the Electronic System for Travel Authorisation (ESTA) visa waiver required to enter or transit the USA as a visitor.
ETIAS will be a visa waiver, meaning it will save you the hassle of obtaining a conventional Schengen visa.
The short answer is yes, and you will need to pay particular attention to the definition of a valid UK passport which is defined as:
▪ Age: A passport that is less than 10 years old ▪ Validity: A passport that has at least 6 months left before it runs out
The only exception to the six-month rule is Ireland as it is part of the Common Travel Area, which means you will be able to travel there even if your passport is due to expire in the next 3 months.
If your passport has or is about to expire, be sure to apply as early as possible as the UK government could face delays in producing and delivering your new passport, which will be a different colour.
The European Health Insurance Card (known as EHIC) has historically given you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in the EU. This came in handy if you injured yourself during a trip or had to go to the hospital.
Whilst you can still use your EHIC when travelling to the EU, it will only be valid until it expires, at which point you will need to replace it with a new UK Global Health Insurance Card (known as GHIC).
You won’t need to apply for a GHIC if you already have a valid EHIC and you will need to wait until it has expired before applying for your GHIC. Since an EHIC or GHIC is free of charge, be sure to use the official government website to do so as there are plenty of unofficial websites, which may charge if you apply through them.
It is however worth noting that some people may still be able to get a new UK-issued EHIC, if they are:
▪ an EU, Swiss, Norwegian, Icelandic or Liechtenstein citizen who has been living in the UK since before 1 January 2021 ▪ a UK State Pensioner or receiving some other exportable benefits, and you have a registered S1 form or E121 ▪ a frontier worker (someone who works in one state and lives in another) and you've been one since before 1 January 2021, for as long as you continue to be a frontier worker in the host state, and you’re eligible for an S1 form or E106 ▪ an eligible family member or dependant of one of the above ▪ a UK student studying in the EU, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland, who has been there since before 1 January 2021.
Whilst the EHIC entitled UK travellers to the same treatment at state-run hospitals and GPs in the EU that locals are entitled to and more importantly at the same cost (in some cases it could be free), as well as non-EU countries including Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, it was never meant as a replacement for travel insurance as it only covered medical expenses.
Be sure to get travel insurance
In order to be fully covered for all medical expenses as well as a range of other potentially expensive situations such as holiday cancellation, lost luggage, mountain rescue or repatriation, we highly encourage all BRB travellers to secure the appropriate EU or Worldwide travel insurance before travelling.
If you are planning on travelling to Europe twice a year or more, we would always recommend to look at annual covers as these tend to be cheaper than individual single trip covers.
Be sure to check with your bank as you may already be charged a monthly fee to have access to additional benefits such as travel insurance. If you think your account offers travel insurance, be sure to check the terms and conditions to ensure it is appropriate for you and your family.
Goodbye roaming free calls and data
Whilst we’ve all been able to enjoy roaming free calls, messages and internet when travelling to Europe, Brexit may change this.
The UK's trade deal with the EU does not specify if the ban on additional roaming charges will continue and says that both sides are encouraging operators to have "transparent and reasonable rates" for roaming and.
Put it simply, mobile operators will be able to implement roaming charges from 1st January 2021 if they want to, so it is key to check with your own mobile phone operator to see what their new roaming charges may be going forward.
A certain level of protection for travellers
However, it’s not all doom and gloom. A legislation has already been passed to provide some safeguards for UK travellers. These include:
▪ A £45-a-month limit on the amount that UK customers could be charged for using mobile data abroad before having to opt into further use ▪ Requirements for customers to be informed when they have reached 80% and 100% of their data allowance
According to the UK government, UK passport holders travelling to and from an EU airport may no longer be able to use special passport and customs lanes reserved for EU, EEA and Swiss citizens as the UK is no longer part of the EU.
This could have an impact on the amount of time it takes you to get through border control as passport control for non-EU citizens tend to be more stringent. This is important if you have to connect with another flight and have a limited amount of time to do so.
You may not be able to use speed lanes at passport control and may also need to: ▪ Show a return or onward ticket ▪ Show you have enough money for your stay
You will be able to drive in the EU
The good news is that most UK drivers will still be able to use their normal UK driving licence to drive in EU countries and you will still be able to rent a car.
But you may need an IDP
There are however some exceptions:
▪ People who only have a paper licence (i.e. not a photocard one) may not be allowed to drive in EU countries. ▪ People whose licences were issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man may also need an IDP.
If you fall in any of these two categories, it is advised to check with the embassy of the country you are planning to drive in to see if you will need an IDP. An International Driving Permit (IDP) can be bought at the Post Office for £5.50.
The full list of which IDPs you need worldwide can be found here.
Even if your UK photocard driving licence has an EU flag on it, it will still be valid in the UK until the expiry date printed on it.
Goodbye pet passports
Whilst UK citizen have been able to take their dog or cat from the UK to the EU and back again without them having to go into quarantine, provided they had a valid pet passport and that they had been microchipped, pet passports will no longer be valid from 1 January 2021.
Hello Animal Health Certificate
You will still be able to take your dog or cat from the UK to the EU since Great Britain should be given "part two listed" status, but you will need to follow a different procedure which includes:
▪ Obtaining an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) which confirms that your pet is microchipped and vaccinated against rabies. You will need to get a new certificate each time you travel with your pet and you must obtain it within 10 days of the date you travel. The document is valid for four months, for a single trip into the EU, onward travel within the EU and for re-entry to Great Britain. Your AHC will be issued by your vet.
▪ On arrival to the EU, you will need to enter through a designated travellers' point of entry, where you will be subjected to documentary and identity checks by the competent authorities. The traveller’s points of entry are listed on the EU website here.
All in all, the deal negotiated between the UK and the EU will have minimal impact on your European travel plans and your travel concierge as well as the entire BRB team will always be on hand to help you navigate these changes.
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