What does the formal Brexit withdrawal mean for travelers?
After months of debate, delays and last-minute political wrangling the United Kingdom officially separated from the European Union last week. But what does that mean for travelers? In the short term, things will largely remain unchanged during the transition period which was set as part of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB). The following is an overview of what travelers might expect during the transition process and beyond.
On Feb. 1, 2020, an 11-month transition period got underway, during which time the U.K. and EU will negotiate their future relationship. While a free trade deal tops the list, negotiations will need to cover a wide range of issues, including some relating to travel, such as air services and security. The U.K. will also need to introduce systems to handle immigration once freedom of movement ends.
During the transition period, nothing should change: The trading relationship will remain the same and the U.K. will continue to follow the EU’s rules. Disruption should be minimal. But this could all change if deals are not agreed by the end of 2020, or if the right systems are not in place in time. The WAB rules out extending the transition period beyond the end of 2020, even if a free trade deal with the EU has not been agreed. Any part of the relationship without an agreement will proceed on no-deal terms from the beginning of 2021.
Travel risks remain largely unchanged in the short term
While travel risks remain largely unchanged in the short term, it is still possible for the U.K. to find itself in a “hard-Brexit” situation at the start of 2021. Some key points which travel managers and travelers should continue to be aware of incase transition negotiations hit a roadblock include:
- Air services between the U.K. and EU will continue and be unaffected, at least until Oct. 24, 2020.
- Travel to and from the U.K. would be subject to delays and disruption, particularly at the U.K./EU border. In the event agreements are not reached border control at airports and Eurostar stations is likely to be the area most immediately affected, with subsequent impacts for business travelers.
Travel managers should advise all travelers to allow plenty of time to transit through all regulatory processes. This advice applies to travelers from all countries. (Adelman’s mobile app Ava gives travelers an easy way to stay informed about delays.
- U.K. citizens must renew their passport, if on the day of travel it has less than six months left or is more than nine years and six months old. Post-Brexit, passport processing times could be significantly longer than they currently are.
- U.K. citizens may need an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive within the EU. If a traveler intends to take their own company vehicle, a “green card” (from the insurers) and a GB sticker will be mandatory.
- Mobile roaming data may end. The guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway will formally end; the decision on how to handle data charges post-Brexit will be at the discretion of individual operators. Travel managers should review the company telephone contractual usage policy and ask all travelers to check their own telephone contract policy to avoid financial surprises.
- Travel insurance costs may increase if the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is discontinued or amended in some material way. Again, travel managers should review the company travel insurance policy and get all travelers to check their own insurance cover in relation to any withdrawal of the EHIC scheme.
We recommend monitoring the U.K. Government website for the latest details and advice.