Don’t worry – you’ll still be able to use your current passport after 31 January, 2020, when we enter a transition period, meaning travel will continue as usual until 31 December, 2020.
The status of UK travellers within Europe will change post-Brexit. Instead of enjoying free movement within the EU, we’ll become “third-country nationals” and subject to the standard rules of admission for citizens of countries such as the US, Japan and Australia. This will come into effect after the transition period ends on December 31.
Some of these rules aren’t particular onerous. For example, you’ll need to have at least six months left on your passport from your date of arrival in Europe. This is the case when we travel to many countries outside the EU anyway, so it’s not a huge change.
A bigger issue after December 31 is British visitors to the EU will be limited to a stay of 90 days in any 180-day period. You might be asked more questions at the European border such as how you’ll support yourself during your trip, where you will stay, and whether you have a return ticket home.
The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS)
During the transition period, Brits won’t need a visa to go to Europe. But that will change when the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) is implemented next year.
From 2021, if you want to visit Europe for longer than 90 days, British travellers will need to complete an online ETIAS application form before going to Europe. It will cost €7 to register for three years and you’ll need to do it 72 hours before you want to travel.
The ETIAS isn’t a visa – it’s a visa waiver and will work in a similar way to the ESTA visa-waiver scheme in the US.
Flights between the UK and Europe
There have been plenty of scare stories around about flights grinding to a halt the minute we leave the EU – but that’s unlikely to happen.
In short, airlines need permission to fly over other countries’ airspace. The UK government has said it would envisage granting permission to EU airlines to carry on as normal and would expect EU countries to reciprocate.
Under the current EU regulation EC 261, passengers may be entitled to compensation of up to €600 for any flight delay of three or more hours, a cancelled flight or if they’re denied boarding. These rules apply if the departure airport is within the EU, or the flight lands in the EU, and is operated by an EU-based carrier.
The government has said once the UK leaves the EU, regardless of whether we leave with a deal or not, flight delay compensation rules shouldn't change as EC 261 has been written into UK law. This is unless the government introduces a modified version of EC 261 - which could have lower compensation limits.
It's worth noting if you're flying between two EU countries, you'll still be covered under EC 261 because the law doesn't require you to be an EU citizen to claim compensation.
Protect yourself with a packaged holiday
Some transport providers have added “Brexit clauses” to their terms and conditions. These generally state that they will not be liable for “consequential losses” (such as hotel bookings and car hire) if travel plans are disrupted.
Travellers can protect themselves by buying a packaged holiday as Package Travel Regulations will remain in place. These ensure you get a refund if Brexit (or anything else) results in your package holiday being cancelled by the tour operator.
Another option is to only book hotels with free cancellation – then you won’t be liable for your room costs if travel delays result in you abandoning your trip.
EHIC and travel insurance
Currently the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles all EU citizens to public healthcare on the same basis as local people in all EU nations.
This has proved a handy benefit for many and in an ideal world EHIC benefits would carry on post-Brexit.
If the EHIC card goes, travel insurance premiums are likely to rise as insurers would have to cover the cost of UK citizens having medical treatment abroad.
You can still use your EHIC until the end of the year and it will depend on what is negotiated post December 2020 on the future of British card holders. Savvy travellers should have travel insurance anyway – a good policy covers a wide range of situations such as delays, lost luggage, stolen possessions and repatriation.
Driving in Europe
UK drivers currently don’t need any additional documentation to drive in Europe, and this will remain during the transition period.
Drivers with their own cars will still need to provide their V5 ownership document and display a GB sticker.
After December 2020, motorists are likely to need a “green card” from their insurance company to prove they have third party insurance (the legal minimum level of cover to drive abroad). There may be an admin charge for green cards – we don’t know yet and it could vary between insurers.