This week a little of the fog around the impact of Brexit on travellers and holidaymakers began to clear – at least some of the issues became a little more focused. Guidance was issued on contingency arrangements for passports and driving licences in case of a hard Brexit, and there was an announcement on roaming charges for mobile phones. Here is an overview on where we are on 10 key areas affecting travellers.
1. Passports, visas and driving licences?
It seems we will avoid the nightmare of needing a visa, but after March 29 British citizens who enter the Schengen area (which covers most EU countries) must have a passport which was issued no more than nine years, six months ago. Meanwhile British driving licences may be invalid – you may need a international version (£5.50 from post offices).
2. Higher airfares?
Even in the event of the hardest of hard Brexits, it is surely unthinkable that the agreements on air services between Britain and the EU will be allowed to lapse so that flights cease overnight. But the continuing success of the no-frills airlines, reducing fares and opening up new routes between the UK and the EU, is less certain.
3. A weaker pound?
Sterling is weaker and holidays have become more expensive since the Brexit vote. In June 2016, the pound bought about €1.30; now the rate is about €1.10. If a good Brexit deal is signed, it will strengthen, if not, it seems likely to remain depressed.
4. Delay compensation?
The remarkably high levels of compensation under the EU directive on flight delays are now part of UK law. British airlines will likely lobby hard to get the protection watered down after we have left.
5. Health benefits?
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives us free or reduced-cost treatment in other EU countries. The Government has signalled an intention to keep the scheme – or a similar one – going.
6. Roaming charges?
We won’t be entitled to free roaming after Brexit. But Vodafone and Three have agreed to continue it, and the Government now says it may cap data charges at £45 a month for operators that don’t.
7. Less protection?
Financial protection arrangements for package holidays were enshrined in UK law under the EU directive of 1992 and extended again in July. It seems unlikely that the UK Government will want to water them down, although they will, of course, be free to do so.
8. Working visas?
The ability for you, or your children, to work in the EU – perhaps to fund a trip around Europe by taking casual jobs – depends on our membership. Since restrictions on freedom of work and movement seem inevitable, it is almost certain that British citizens will no longer be able to work in EU countries without a visa
9. Beach pollution?
Over the past 25 years, EU rules have forced Britain to clean up its beaches, though more improvement is still needed. Is that more or less likely to happen now there will no longer be pressure from the EU? We will see.
10. Back to duty free?
We lost the right to duty free when travelling between EU countries in 1999. But we gained the right to bring home virtually unlimited amounts of duty paid goods – good news because duty on wine in France is 23p per 750ml, for example, compared with £2.08 in the UK. Now that we are leaving, the good news is that, presumably, we will revert to the same arrangements which apply to all other countries. We will have a duty free allowance of 200 cigarettes, 16 litres of beer and four litres of wine, but above that we will have to pay about £2 for each bottle of wine we bring home.