Whether you support or oppose Brexit, there is no denying that it is a major political challenge that affects nearly all aspects of our lives including travelling to the continent.
Over 32 million Britons holiday in the EU each year. Many of our customers have already booked their travel for next year or are planning to book soon so, to avoid any unnecessary disruption to your travel plans, we are taking extra steps to make sure you are aware of any measures you may need to consider before or during travelling.
The EU is largely to thank for many travel laws and regulations that are currently in place in the UK like financial protection for package holidays, cheaper flights to more locations, compensation for delayed flights, caps on mobile roaming charges, access to free healthcare and cleaner beaches. Thankfully, there are safeguards in place that has seen many of these regulations transferred into British law.
As a member of ABTA, we are being updated continually on the situation and the effects it will inevitably have on the travel sector. We've identified specific actions UK customers may need to take in advance, the information only covers areas where you can take reasonable action or put plans into place now. Areas where the situation is still unclear, are not included, but the information will be updated once clarified.
Latest update - Thursday 4th February 2021
Rules have changed - please make yourself familiar with what's new
- We're ABTA and ATOL protected. This means you have the benefit of ABTA’s assistance and Code of Conduct. All the package and Flight-Plus holidays we sell are covered by a scheme protecting your money if the supplier fails.
- You will not need a visa unless you plan to stay for longer than 90 days in any 180 day period.
- Your passport will still be valid but you should have more than 6 months remaining.
- You will still be able to drive in the EU without an IDP but you will need a Green Card.
How does the Brexit decision affect my holiday?
The UK left the EU at 11pm (GMT) Friday 31 January 2020. We stopped following EU rules at this time but many regulations that the UK adopted while a member of the Union have been transferred into British law.
The rules on travel between the UK and EU have now changed. You should make yourself familiar with the new rules and procedures that are in place.
For comprehensive information and advice about visiting Europe from 1 January 2021, please visit the UK Government website here.
- European Health Insurance Card and Travel Insurance
- Driving Licences
- Taking Pets Abroad
- Data Roaming
- Package Travel Regulations & Consumer rights
- Overseas visitors
- Food and animal products
- Glossary & useful terms
You can continue to travel to mainland Europe with your UK passport until it expires, as long as your passport is valid for the length of your stay, has at least six months of validity left and is less than ten years old. This includes all current passport designs, including burgundy covers and those with ‘EUROPEAN UNION’ printed on the front. These rules don’t apply to travel to the Republic of Ireland. If you apply for a new passport, you will be sent the new-style blue design.
You can no longer use the EU/EEA/Switzerland fast-track lanes at passport control at airports. You should use the other lanes or e-gates where available. However, some countries that see large numbers of British holidaymakers are expected to make special arrangements.
The European Parliament has confirmed that UK travellers won’t need a visa for short visits. UK citizens will be able to visit the EU for up to 90 days within a 180-day period without a visa. Multiple holidays within this period will count towards your 90 days.
From late 2022, if plans remain unchanged, you will need to apply for an ETIAS Visa Waiver to travel to Schengen member countries. ETIAS stands for European Travel Information and Authorisation System. It is a new system being implemented by the European Commission to strengthen the Union’s borders. All countries that do not currently need a visa to travel to Europe will need to apply for the waiver.
Don’t worry; we’ll provide further information about this scheme nearer the time.
Changes have been made to how UK citizens receive free or low-cost healthcare while in the European Union. Whereas previously, the holder of an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) was entitled to healthcare at little, to no cost while on holiday, that is no longer the case.
If you have an EHIC that is still valid, you can continue to use it in the EU until it expires. You can still apply for and use an EHIC if you are a British state pensioner residing in the EU or an EU national living in the UK.
The UK Government has launched a replacement scheme called GHIC (Global Health Insurance Card). You can apply for a card at ghic.org.uk. You can use a GHIC to get “necessary healthcare” from state services when you’re visiting an EU country.
Necessary healthcare means healthcare which becomes “medically necessary” during your stay, and you cannot reasonably wait until you’re back in the UK to get it. For the full list of what you can and cannot use a GHIC for, visit ghic.org.uk.
We recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that covers your medical needs. Don’t purely rely on an EHIC or GHIC.
The NHS website provides information about healthcare abroad.
ABTA-issued advice on travel insurance may be found here.
Driving in the EU has been largely unaffected and thankfully won’t require too much extra paperwork or an International Driving Permit.
You will need to hold a valid UK driving licence and a physical green card (you can get these from your insurer, you may be charged a small fee to cover administration costs) if you plan to drive in the EU including Ireland, Andorra, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Norway, Serbia or Switzerland. You will also need to display a GB sticker regardless of any registration plate identifiers.
If you’re towing a caravan, you should check if you need to register your trailer before entering some EU countries. You can find out more at gov.uk/guidance/trailer-registration.
Check gov.uk/driving-abroad for a step-by-step guide, and any requirements specific to the country you’re driving in.
You can no longer utilise the Pet Passport scheme to travel with your pet to the EU. Instead, you must get your pet microchipped and then vaccinated against rabies before it can travel.
You will also have to obtain an Animal Health Certificate from your vet in a process which takes up to four months.
The EU has granted the UK Part 2 Listed Third Country Status.
You can find the full requirements for taking pets to the EU at gov.uk/guidance/pet-travel-to-and-from-great-britain
The certificate needs to be signed by a vet and will be valid for 10 days after the date of issue for entry into the EU and Northern Ireland and four months for onward travel and re-entry to the UK.
Most UK networks have confirmed that roaming will remain surcharge-free; however, the amount that EU mobile operators can charge UK operators for providing roaming services will no longer be regulated. This means that surcharge-free roaming when you travel to the EU can no longer be guaranteed.
You should check with your operator to find out about any roaming charges or additional fees.
A recently introduced law means that you’re protected from getting mobile data charges above £45 without you knowing.
Once you reach the £45 limit, you’ll need to opt in to spend more so that you can continue using the internet while you’re abroad. Your phone operator will tell you how you can do this.
The EU is largely to thank for many travel laws and regulations currently in place in the UK like financial protection for package holidays, cheaper flights to more locations, compensation for delayed flights, caps on mobile roaming charges, access to free healthcare and cleaner beaches. Thankfully, there are safeguards to protect these regulations, and the UK Government has confirmed that the Package Travel Regulations will remain in UK law.
Customers who book a package holiday with a UK travel company enjoy the most comprehensive consumer protection. If you book a package, your holiday will be protected under the Package Travel Regulations, meaning you have a right to a full refund if your holiday can no longer be provided.
Your consumer rights in regards to travelling will remain mostly unchanged.
You will have the same rights under UK law in the event of denied boarding, cancellation or long delay of passenger air, rail, road or sea services.
EU law will continue to apply for EU registered passenger transport operators in respect of journeys to and from the EU.
The EU regulations on rail passengers’ rights, bus and coach passengers’ rights and maritime passengers’ rights are now enshrined in UK law. They will continue to protect passengers on cross-border rail services, bus and coach travel and ferry and cruise travel.
Your rights as a passenger using Eurotunnel’s cross-border shuttle services will remain unchanged. Passengers can continue to use Eurotunnel’s existing complaints procedure.
There has been no change to visa & passport requirements for visitors from non-EU countries. However, the ETIAS Visa Waiver scheme may affect overseas visitors from 2023 onwards.
Food and animal produce
The rules on bringing food, animal produce and plants into the EU from the UK have changed. All non-EU countries currently have restrictions on what they can and can’t bring into the Union. Unless a special arrangement is made in the future, the UK will have to follow these rules.
Suppose no special arrangement is made regarding the movement of food items for personal consumption and plants. In that case, you will not be allowed to bring any meat or
dairy products into the EU. You will be allowed to bring a limited quantity of fruit and vegetables as well as eggs, egg products and honey. Limited amounts of fish and fish products are also allowed.
Further information can be found at europa.eu
Flights will continue as normal. There will be no impact to direct flights to non-EU countries.
Before you leave for the airport, check online for the latest travel information and scheduled services from your airline.
You should allow extra time as UK passport holders are no longer entitled to use EU/EEA passport lanes at airports. This could lead to long queues and delays during school holidays and peak travel periods.
Aviation security for passengers
You will not experience any difference in aviation security screening. The UK will continue to apply robust aviation security measures and prioritise passenger safety and security.
The European Commission has proposed measures to avoid extra security screening of passengers from the UK when transferring to onward flights at EU airports.
Ferry services and cruises will still sail as most rules under which they operate are not based on EU rules, but are international.
Eurostar and Eurotunnel services from the UK to the EU will continue to operate as usual. We would advise you to check before you travel to see any cancellations, delays or additional information you need to be aware of.
Glossary & useful terms
Common Travel Area
The Common Travel Area (CTA) is a long-standing agreement between the Great Britain and Ireland. It pre-dates British and Irish membership of the EU. Under the CTA, British and Irish citizens can move freely and reside in either jurisdiction and enjoy associated rights and privileges. Since the 1st January 2021, there has been a border between Great Britain and Ireland. This is to avoid a physical border separating Northern Ireland and the Republic, protecting the Good Friday Agreement. Effectively, Northern Ireland still follows some EU laws, aligning it with the rest of Ireland but Great Britain doesn't. This calls for a border in the Irish Sea and checks to be carried out ports.
We've put together a handy guide containing all of this information (and a few other bits). You can also view and download it on Issuu.
Recommended additional reading:
You may also like to read:
- Passport rules for travelling after Brexit
- Package travel after Brexit
- Healthcare for Holidaymakers after Brexit
- Aviation and security after Brexit
- Eurostar travel after Brexit
- Brexit & the law