UK travellers love to holiday in Europe. Every type of trip is on offer, from a last-minute weekend away to a fortnight in the sun. What’s more, the short flight times and ample airport connections mean travel times are shorter than they have ever been.
But, with just months to go until the UK is due to leave the European Union (EU), you may be wondering how Brexit will affect travel to some of our favourite destinations. It certainly isn’t putting people off choosing European holiday destinations – according to recent research, seven out of 10 Brits are planning a holiday to Europe in 2019 – so it’s important to know how Brexit could impact this.
At the time of writing this blog, there are still no definitive answers, but we’ve gathered the latest information and advice from the government and UK travel trade associations below.
Until March 2019, nothing will change
Whether or not the UK agrees a Brexit deal with the EU, we do know that nothing will affect travel to and from Europe until March 29, 2019. After this date, any changes will depend on the final deal the government has negotiated, if there is one.
You may need at least six months on your passport to travel
In the event of a no-deal Brexit, after March 29, 2019, the Foreign & Commonwealth Office have stated that you will need at least six months left on your UK passport to travel to Europe, rather than a minimum of the duration of your trip. It’s also important to note that any months you may have on your passport from a previous early renewal will not count.
So, if your passport will be older than 9 years and 6 months on the date you want to travel, you will need to renew it in advance.
All-inclusive deals could shield you from currency fluctuations
Although no longer being part of the EU could cause the price of our European holidays to rise, it’s in the interest of many countries to keep travel for UK tourists affordable. As one of their biggest markets, travel-related businesses in France and Spain, for example, won’t want to deter holidaymakers from the UK by raising prices too high.
Opting for an all-inclusive holiday could be one way to minimise the inevitable impacts of a weak pound and uncertain currency shifts though. In saying that, it is possible that prices could lower in that time. If you would rather avoid the uncertainty, booking and paying for many of the aspects of your trip upfront as part of a deal, including food, drink and entertainment, can save you from the potentially higher prices you could face while you’re away.
Package holidays offer more refund protection
If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, there has been speculation that sudden travel restrictions could stop flights and ferries to Europe overnight. While this is unlikely, booking a package holiday may offer more financial protection than booking separate flights and accommodation, etc. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has stated that package holidays booked and paid for through UK travel companies will be eligible for a full refund if they cannot travel due to Brexit.
It’s also worth noting that the current protections we have in the UK when booking European package holidays, against organisers going out of business or not delivering the package as sold, will still be covered after the UK leaves EU. The UK-based Air Travel Organiser’s Licence (ATOL) scheme offers this cover and more.
Bank cards designed for overseas travel help to avoid extra charges
Using standard credit and debit cards while on holiday, and even withdrawing money from cashpoints, can incur considerable extra expense. What’s more, these charges are subject to international exchange rates, which have been less than favourable for UK travellers since the EU referendum result in 2016.
Of course, there’s no telling what will happen to the strength of the pound once we leave the EU on March 29, but securing a bank card that offers protection from excess travel charges could be one way to shield yourself from extra costs. These cards, and those that enable you to pre-load spending money ahead of your holiday at a locked-in exchange rate, could help you avoid the instability of the currency market after Brexit.
Travel compensation rights could be affected
As it stands, UK travellers are able to claim compensation for long journey delays, cancellations or being denied the right to board on planes, ferries and trains within the EU under a specific EU regulation. Unless the UK creates equivalent legislation, this could cease to exist after Brexit.
Of course, regardless of what happens once the UK leaves the EU, you can protect yourself against the costs of travel disruption for yourself and your travel companions through your travel insurance policy. At Free Spirit, our specialist travel insurance policies include cover in the event of journey delays or cancellations of 12 hours or more and missed departures and connections.
The future of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is uncertain
If the UK leaves the EU in March 2019 with a deal in place, the details of exactly how the existing EHIC scheme will continue to work at least until December 2020, which is when the official Brexit implementation period will end. After this point, it will depend on what is decided between the UK and the EU/EEA nations we have agreements with in relation to reciprocal healthcare access.
However, a no-deal Brexit could result in emergency measures in order to maintain the provision of the EHIC scheme.
Travel insurance will be just as important after Brexit
Although there is still much that’s uncertain as we approach Brexit, one thing is for sure – having travel insurance in place that covers any medical conditions you may have will be just as, if not more, important for trips to Europe after we leave the EU. The ambiguity over existing agreements, such as the EHIC, mean that it is even more vital to cover yourself for the costs of healthcare overseas, as well as other unexpected travel-related issues.