No one knows exactly what will happen in just under 100 days time on 29 March 2019…. Much depends on the outcome of the Parliamentary vote here in the UK during the week commencing 14 January. However, here is what we do know about how your travel will be affected and we think it’s reassuring for anyone planning a holiday to Italy in 2019.
Until 29 March 2019, there is no change in travel arrangements from the UK to the EU. UK visitors to Europe enjoy exactly the same benefits and rights as they do today however, come 11 p.m on the 29th, that all changes should we have a no-deal Brexit.
Don’t worry…. your passport will still be valid. However, anyone that applies for a new passport after 29 March will find their new passport looks a bit different from the burgundy passport we are used to. Passports issued from 30 March 2019 will have the words ‘European Union’ removed from the cover and first page. By October 2019, new British passports will also have a dark blue cover.
From 11 p.m. on the 29th March 2019, any UK resident travelling to Europe will also need to have at least 6 months on their passport. UK citizens will also lose the right to free movement within the 27 EU countries. Because of this, some are predicting a surge in passport applications in the first few months of 2019 as holidaymakers ensure that their passports have enough validity on their passport for their Easter and Summer holiday plans – it might be worth checking yours now if you think it might be nearing its expiry date.
In early November, the EU proposed that British travellers should not need a visa to travel to the EU in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as long as the UK provided the same for EU nationals.
However, based on the EU no-deal contingency action plan which was published on 19 December, the EU confirmed that, in fact, UK citizens would have to pay 7 euros for a travel permit as part of the European Travel Information and Authorisation Scheme (ETIAS). This system would be similar to the ESTA system which is currently in place to gain access to the USA. Travellers will have to register their details and pay the fee in advance of travel. Once the ETIAS authorisation is given though, it is valid for 3 years.
We’re confident that the EU aren’t going to want to make it difficult for Brits to travel to Europe, given that they spend around £20 million per annum in EU countries and the new ETIAS system promises to be pretty straightforward.
Despite some scare stories to the contrary, it looks like flights will continue to operate in the eventuality of a no deal Brexit.
The EU recently released their no-deal contingency plans which include clear measures to keep the skies open. The EU commission has proposed ‘measures to ensure that air carriers from the UK are allowed to fly over the territory of the EU, make technical stops (e.g. refuelling without embarkation / disembarkation of passengers)’ as well as ‘land in the EU and fly back to the UK.’ The EU has put in place a condition on this though which is that ‘those measures would be subject to the condition that the UK applies equivalent measures to air carriers from the EU’.
The good news is that the UK government has already indicated that it will do so. UK Transport secretary Chris Grayling said that the government welcomed the proposals, adding, ‘Whether for business or leisure, travellers can continue to book with confidence.’
This is not to say that there won’t be changes within the airline industry, particularly in the case of a ‘no deal’.
In the short term, passengers travelling may find that it takes longer to make their way through the security channels at foreign airports due to the extra time taken to process passport details. Unfortunately, our right to use the ‘fast track’ lane to enter Europe could be lost in the event of a no deal and we may need to join the queue for third country nationals. However, with a little bit of patience, we’re sure your holiday will be worth any minor delays!
Flight Disruption Rights
UK passengers are currently protected by European Passenger Rights Rules (officially known by the exciting name of Regulation EC261 / 2004). This was established in 2005. This means that in the case of flight delays and cancellations, passengers are entitled to receive 250 euros in compensation on short haul European flights. Until 29 March 2019, UK passengers continue to be protected by this legislation. However, in the case of a no-deal Brexit, UK passenger rights are not potentially protected to the same level after 11 p.m on the 29th. That said, the UK government has already stated that ‘the UK will not fall below current standards of protection when we leave the EU’ so we’re hopeful that alternative measures will be put in place to protect holidaymakers.
Roaming charges were eliminated throughout the EU in June 2017 thus ending the extortionate extra fees the phone companies used to impose on us to use our phones abroad. The danger is that, once we leave the EU, mobile phone companies could start re-imposing these charges.
But this would be a massive step back and would be so unpopular with customers that we just don’t see this happening. Certainly, many phone companies have already made it clear that they have no intention to take a step backwards.
For example, the CEO of Three announced that the company is ‘committed to no changes to roaming on Three following Brexit.’ Other companies such as O2, EE, Tesco Mobile and Vodafone have also followed suit, making it clear that they would similarly not increase data roaming costs in the EU. The UK government have also made it clear that they would put in place legislation to ensure that there is a limit on what mobile phone companies can charge for data whilst abroad (£45 per monthly billing period) as well as ensuring that customer were alerted when they were 80% of the way through their data allowance and then again at 100% of usage.
Whilst your phone bill may not change, it is likely that your holiday may be more expensive in other ways. Unfortunately, ever since Britain voted to leave the EU, the currency has plunged and it’s certainly not a great time now to have to buy your euros. That said, trying to predict currency fluctuations is near impossible. Who knows… if the pound started to become a safe haven currency, could we even return to a rate of £1 to 1.30 euros and start to see pricing fall. The only thing that is likely is that the market will remain volatile for the foreseeable future whatever the outcome on 29 March!
Certainly, eating out and shopping on the continent is currently more expensive for UK travellers than it was this time 2 years ago due to the plummeting pound. If your accommodation is priced in euros, you’re also going to be paying more than in 2016 based on current exchange rates. That said, there are ways to ensure you don’t see a ridiculous hike on your travel costs. As an example, Bookings For You have a range of properties to rent in Italy priced in British Pounds, ensuring no increase in your costs versus last Summer. And, for those properties priced in euros, don’t be afraid to ask about discounts in order to offset the currency fluctuation. I’m very much of the school that, ‘if you don’t ask, you don’t get!’
Another possible option to try and secure the best deal possible is to book your currency requirements ahead of time. Some companies do offer the option of cancelling currency orders up to 24 hours before collection so if you find the currency moves in your favour, you can cancel and re-order. But if it moves against you, you have at least managed to lock in the best rate that you can.
Another great option is to take out a credit card specifically designed for use overseas. Normal credit and debit cards charge additional costs and fees to use the card abroad. Some of these transaction costs can be as much as 2.99%. However, there are other options out there. The Halifax Clarity credit card is the perfect solution for those travelling overseas and charges absolutely no fees for using it abroad.
27 million UK citizens currently enjoy free healthcare in the EU thanks to the EHIC card. This covers treatment of pre-existing medical conditions as well as emergency care if you fall ill on holiday or have an accident whilst abroad in Europe; it entitles all EU citizens to healthcare treatment on the same basis as the local population.
Post 29 March, in the case of a no deal, the UK government will have to re-negotiate our future use of the card. However, possible examples of how this may work are already in place elsewhere. Should the UK remain within the European Economic Area (EEA) despite leaving the EU, it may be able to keep reciprocal healthcare with the other EEA / EU nations, in the same way that Iceland and Norway have these in place today. Or, the UK government may choose to negotiate separate healthcare agreements with individual countries following the examples that are already in place today with Australia and New Zealand.
In the short term, these agreements could take a while to put into place, leading to a danger that travel insurance premiums may rise. Without EHIC, it’s more important than ever that travellers have suitable travel insurance in place, especially those with pre-existing medical conditions.
At the moment, UK drivers with a full driving license don’t currently need an additional license to rent or drive a car in the EU. However, this would change if the UK bows out of the EU with a ‘no deal’. In this scenario, UK drivers would need to apply for an International Driving Permit. Rest assured though, these are easy to obtain, issued through the Post Office, RAC or AA. Simply take along a copy of your passport, your driving license and a signed passport photo. It costs just £5.50, normally takes a couple of weeks to process and can be applied for within 3 months of the date of travel. Once you have received it, it’s valid for 12 months.
Travelling with Pets
As it stands today, under the EU Pet Travel Scheme, UK pet owners can currently travel with their animals to and from the EU provided they hold a valid EU pet passport.
Even in the event of a no-deal, you will still have every right to take your pet on holiday with you to the EU after 29 March 2019, but it may be more complicated. It will just depend on what status the EU decides to give to the UK. It may be that, with our new status, there may be some extra requirements to be met such as additional vet visits and extra paperwork. Health certificates would potentially be required for each trip, with vets having to check that each animal is micro-chipped and has an up-to-date rabies vaccination 21 days in advance of any trip.
Since the exact requirements are currently unclear, the best advice at the moment is that anyone looking to travel with their pet on or soon after 29 March should contact their vet as soon as possible as the guidance is that they should start discussing their plans at least 4 months ahead of their travel dates.
The one thing we can be sure of is that there are no changes at all to travel within Europe until 29 March 2019. That means if you’re planning a last minute break to Italy in the first quarter of 2019, you can travel safe in the knowledge that you are covered by all existing regulation. Post 29 March, if the EU withdrawal agreement is accepted in the UK Parliament in the week commencing 14 January, nearly all of EU law would remain in place during the transition period prior to the UK leaving the EU in 2020 again giving you the confidence you need to continue with any holiday plans. And, even in the event of a no deal Brexit, whilst there remains some uncertainty, the legislation and talk coming from both the UK and EU should give you confidence to plan your Easter and Summer 2019 holidays as you normally would.