Britain has now formally left the European Union, and has entered a transition period set to end on December 31, 2020.
But what does it mean for your holiday plans, and what are the implications for travel insurance?
If you’re worried or simply wondering about an upcoming holiday or trip, you’ve come to the right place. We’ve spoken to some of our travel insurance providers, as well as the Safer Tourism Foundation to find out what Brexit means for UK travellers.
How will Brexit affect travel?
Until we know what deal the government arranges, we can’t be certain how things will pan out. Some have warned of flight cancellations. But most have predicted that, in the immediate aftermath of Brexit, even if the UK emerges without a deal, travel will continue largely as normal.
Katherine Atkinson, Chief Executive at Safer Tourism Foundation, said: “Deal or no deal, we are confident that post-Brexit, flights, cruises, ferries and trains will continue operating from the UK to the rest of the world. Our advice to travellers and holidaymakers is to continue planning and preparing for their time abroad, whether for business or pleasure.”
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal: There will be a change to passport validity requirements. Official government advice has stated that if you plan to visit any countries in the Schengen area after we leave the EU, you will need at least six months validity on your passport.
If you renew your passport before its expiration date, up to nine extra months could be added to your passport expiry date. Any extra months that exceed the 10 years validity will not count towards the six months require for travel to the European countries inside Schengen.
The Schengen area refers to the 26 European states that have officially abolished passport and border control along their mutual borders. The countries are as follows: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Will Brexit affect air travel?
Most experts have predicted that, although some initial disruption is a possibility, air travel will remain largely unaffected. Even in the case of a no deal Brexit, planes should continue to run.
If you are concerned, check with your airline shortly before you are due to travel.
Will Brexit affect ferries or the Eurostar?
If the UK leaves the EU with a deal, there should be no change in ferry or Eurostar travel.
In the event of a no deal, the EU have unveiled an emergency plan to keep trains running through the Eurostar tunnel for at least three months when we leave.
With regards to ferry travel, there have already been a number of cancellations for travellers who were booked to cross the channel between the end of March and mid-May. All 10,000 affected passengers have now been given the option to re-book on alternative crossings.
Apart from that disruption, ferry travel should be largely unaffected by Brexit.
How will Brexit affect travel insurance?
Travel disruption, cancelled accommodation or rescinded excursions due to Brexit: With travel disruption in the wake of Brexit still remaining a very real possibility, the important question is: will your travel insurer pay out in the event of Brexit related travel disruption? And what about cancelled accommodation or trips?
Stuart Lloyd, spokesperson for Columbus Direct Travel Insurance, said: “This will depend on the cover provided by the policy purchased.”
While most policies will have cover for cancellations, travel delays or trip disruption, Brexit related delays are unlikely to feature on the list of specific reasons. Lloyd said “Some policies will have a more open wording around the cause of the delay or disruption that would leave customers able to receive some compensation towards costs incurred. Or, if they are delayed long enough, they may be able to abandon the trip and claim all irrecoverable costs.”
Policies that do have a specific list of instances, may also offer a policy add-on that would cover you for any reasons not mentioned. Lloyd recommends that any customers who are concerned should “review the policy terms or discuss the issues with the provider”.
CoverForYou is one insurer that is offering Brexit Trip Disruption Cover, an add-on for new or existing policies with the insurer. Cover starts from £1.50 for an individual weekend break in Europe, or from £3.25 for a week’s trip for a family of four travelling worldwide. CoverForYou says it “ensures travellers are covered for Brexit-related travel disruption”.
The price of travel insurance post-Brexit
The general consensus is that prices for European travel insurance will eventually rise. However, this all depends on what type of deal the UK emerges with. Stuart Lloyd of Columbus Direct Travel Insurance has said that while increases are inevitable “it is unlikely that the increase will be immediate, even in the event of a no-deal Brexit”.
Kate Huet, managing director of International Travel and Healthcare, said: “Whilst rates may not rise immediately – it won’t take long for rate increases to be seen.”
Price increases will also depend on whether the UK agrees reciprocal healthcare agreements with individual countries. Currently 10 EU countries have agreed to reciprocal healthcare in principle, although we don’t know which countries they are.
What is the recommended level of medical cover post-EHIC?
The advice from travel insurers has always been to take out a policy, even while the EHIC is still in effect - which it should be until the end of 2020. This is because travel insurance covers you for costs such as repatriation, should you require it. It also offers you cover for things like cancellations and lost luggage.
After the EHIC becomes unavailable to UK citizens, Stuart Lloyd, spokesperson for Columbus Direct Travel Insurance says: “There is no expectation that medical costs will get close to the sort of charges seen in America. Also, generally the cost of repatriation from within the EU is less expensive than for those customers travelling further afield. On that basis, it’s reasonable to assume that at the moment £1m of medical expenses cover should be more than adequate.”
Katherine Atkinson, CEO of Safer Tourism says: “Far too many travellers have found themselves with huge medical bills costs because they assumed the European Health Insurance Card would provide the same level of medical treatment and care they would receive in the UK. It doesn’t.
“And many mistakenly believe the EHIC will repatriate them if they are ill or injured, and therefore ignore the need for travel insurance.
“Our advice is to choose the right travel insurance – rather than the cheapest - that covers your personal circumstances.”
Will annual multi-trip travel insurance be affected by Brexit?
There should be no impact to existing annual multi-trip travel insurance policies, however there is a chance that the price of annual multi-trip could increase in the future. Stuart Lloyd of Columbus Direct said: “European policies are likely to increase in price. There could also be an effect on Worldwide policies because of the increased costs from those customers purchasing a Worldwide policy but taking trips within Europe as well.”
How will Europe be regarded as a region when it comes to travel insurance – will it be split?
This is slightly harder to predict, and it is likely to depend on whether agreements are made between the UK and specific European countries. Stuart Lloyd told us: “Insurers currently see larger costs coming in from southern European countries” but he is unsure whether costs in Northern Europe will increase to such an extent that would negate the need to split Europe from a rating perspective.
Kate Huet added: “if there is no reciprocation with a specific EU country then the likelihood is that the countries with no specific reciprocation agreement would need to be rated higher than those where reciprocation has been agreed.”