The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) has published information for travellers in case of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit and newspaper headlines warn of road trip upheavals and millions of flight cancellations. Should you be concerned, and can you safely book that summer holiday?
We don’t have a crystal ball – that would make all of this so much simpler – so we can’t guarantee anything, but we can look at the facts, read between the lines and summarise them for you here.
Where is good to visit?
Economically the present situation has caused havoc with exchange rates, however it has not affected everywhere and it’s worth looking at where your £1 is worth a lot more than usual:
- Egyptian pound – 1:25 (usually around 1:11)
- Turkish lira – 1:7 (usually 1:3)
- Mexico New Peso 1:25 (was 1:23 at referendum)
Early indicators on package holidays show that bookings are up at these key destinations; Spain (up 1%); Greece (up 6%); France (up 14%); US (up 13%); Turkey (up 57%); Wider Americas (up 9%)
Spain accepts 16 million British travellers a year and this is not showing signs of decrease. Spain also received £9bn in 2017 from British travellers. So key countries like Spain won’t want to create a massive hole in their economy and the UK Govt has already had conversations with its key EU partner countries.
Deal or No-Deal
The first thing to remember is that most of the alarm is being raised over a no-deal Brexit, and while that could happen it’s by no means a certainty. The current facts are that ‘no-deal’ looks unlikely, and cannot occur by accident. However, it is the default.
If we do leave the EU with no deal, there are some assurances in place that as travellers we can take comfort from. As we have said previously, the European Commission has confirmed that it will ensure “basic connectivity” with the UK.
What could happen?
UK-EU air service agreement – This is a bare-bones deal presently; UK airlines are actively seeking EU licenses.
Non-EU agreements are in place with 10 countries, including the USA.
- Coach operators
There is access, but limited cabotage (sub-contracting) would be available.
Access – we presently have bilateral deals in place.
Channel Tunnel could be affected by a No-Deal situation.
Most access not directly impacted as International Maritime Law applies.
However, Dover, etc. could be affected by delays at border points.
After exiting the EU we will need at least 6 months validity on our UK passports (i.e. 6 months from the date of arrival in any Schengen country.)
We think sticking to a minimum of 6 months validity is a good plan even if you aren’t travelling right now, simply because realising your passport is about to expire and renewing it at the last minute is stressful!
Visa Waiver Scheme
The EU is introducing a visa waiver scheme (ETIAS). This has already been agreed, regardless of Brexit:
- €7 multi-entry electronic waiver
- Lasts for 3 years
- Likely to come in 2020-2021
The UK is also introducing a Visa Waiver scheme based on similar amounts and principles at a similar time.
The big concern regarding flights is that they will be capped at 2018 levels, even though many 2019 flights have already been sold. There have been warnings of possible disruptions and potentially higher costs.
The Independent reported on 21 January that the International Air Transport Association (IATA) had warned that, “Up to 5 million flights are at risk if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.” We are not sure where these figures came from, or if they are credit-worthy, but we do know that a UK airline flying within destinations that are within Europe (e.g. Rome to Vienna) would become impossible.
Some airlines have already acquired EU registered companies to enable them to keep flying their regular inter-Europe schedules.
The same report goes on to say that, “While most flights will go ahead if the UK crashes out of the EU after 29 March, there ‘remains uncertainty’ about future air travel.”
Airlines don’t seem to be warning passengers of the potential cap, so even though most flights will hopefully be on track, it is something to consider if you’re going to make a flight booking. Look out for the booking conditions that may state they will only refund your airfare – not other costs associated with your trip that you may have incurred – if they can’t operate your flight. Also look out for deals that have Brexit Guarantees and read what these entail – they vary!
On The Road
News sources from the Evening Standard to the Hilltop Monitor have been talking about road travel to Europe, as no-deal would mean UK licence holders need an International Drivers’ Permit (IDP) to drive in the EU. An IDP certifies the validity of your license from your home country. It is not a licence as we think of a driving licence. Beware of scammers if you do this online!
International Driving Permits are also available from the Post Office and we think cost £5.50.
Business and leisure travellers will need a “Green Card” if there’s no deal to prove that they have motor insurance – this is for driving anywhere in the EU, including driving across Irish borders. You should speak to your motor insurer/broker a month before you intend to travel to arrange this, advises the Evening Standard.
People currently living in the EU and using a UK driving licence have been advised to get an EU driving licence before 29 March, or they may have to take another driving test.
There are a number of important and valued consumer protections tied into the UK’s EU Membership. These are the big ones, some of which are vulnerable:
- Reciprocal healthcare (EHIC)
– 26 million in circulation
– Reciprocal Healthcare Bill – we understand the UK has entered into negotiations and agreements with non-EU countries
- Package Travel protection
– 16 million protected arrangements sold in 2015
- Air Passenger Rights
– Millions paid out annually
- Roaming Fees
– Abolished from last summer