26 March

What a no-deal Brexit will mean for anyone planning to holiday in Europe this summer

What a no-deal Brexit will mean for anyone planning to holiday in Europe this summer

In a series of briefing papers issued this week by the European Union, the stark realities of a no-deal Brexit for UK citizens was spelt out in plain English. Not to put too fine a point on it, they make it clear that life is about to become a lot more of a hassle for UK citizens who have any dealings with EU countries or who have retired to one of them or work in one.

In contrast to the papers put out by the UK Government, the advice from the EU contains no politics, only facts. The last paper put out by the UK Government on the issue of travelling within the Common Travel Area in the event of a no-deal Brexit – last updated in December 2018 – begins with the assurance: “Delivering the deal negotiated with the EU remains the government’s top priority. This has not changed.”

No amount of political spin can now obscure the fact that the UK government’s chances of reaching a deal with the EU are at best uncertain.

More time queuing at airports


So, with the summer approaching, what in practical terms will no-deal mean for all those planning to travel to mainland Europe?

“As a UK national, you will no longer be entitled to use the separate EU/EEA/CH lanes at EU border crossing points, and you will be subject to additional checks that you did not have to go through before the UK’s withdrawal,” the EU paper states. “In particular, border guards may ask you to provide information, for instance on the duration and purpose of your stay, as well as on your means of subsistence during your stay. You will need to bring a passport, which was issued within ten years preceding the date of travel, and which remains valid for at least three months after you plan to leave the EU.”

It adds that if you are travelling from the EU to the UK, it is necessary to be aware

  • Your luggage and other goods will be subject to customs checks;
  • You will not be able to bring certain goods into the EU or only in limited amounts. This applies for example to
    products of animal origin (such as meat, milk, ham or cheese), cash exceeding EUR 10,000, certain cultural
    goods, plants, plant products, or certain animals. There may be similar restrictions to EU citizens going to
    the UK;
  • If you carry goods in your luggage or hand-baggage, you will be entitled to duty free allowances (this
    means that goods are exempted from import duty and Value-Added Tax (VAT) and, where applicable, excise
  • In terms of passengers with reduced mobility, you will no longer benefit from EU law, which grants specific rights for persons with disabilities or with reduced
    mobility travelling by air when you leave from, transit through, or arrive at an airport in the UK. However, EU
    airlines which leave from a UK airport to fly to an EU airport will still have to respect certain rights (assistance,
    prevention of refusal of carriage and obligation to provide information).

More time spent queuing at airports is going to be one of the first and most obvious consequence of a no-deal Brexit.

No access to healthcare


More seriously, what would happen if a UK citizen, holidaying in an EU country, were to get sick or be involved in an accident?

“As a UK national you will not be able to access healthcare in an EU Member State on the basis of the European Health Insurance Card,” the EU document states, bluntly.

UK driving licences will also no longer confer an automatic right to drive in EU countries. “In the EU, the recognition of driving licences issued by third countries is regulated at national level. Therefore, you should check the national rules in each of the EU Member States in which you intend to drive. Some EU Member States require that you hold an international driving permit to drive in their country. You should check with the authorities of the EU Member State(s) in which you intend to drive regarding the rules
for recognising UK driving licences.”

Travelling with pets within the EU would also become immeasurably more complicated. “If you are travelling with pets from the UK to the EU, you will have to respect EU rules on the movement of pets,” the document states. These rules provide that the pets:

  • Must have an identification chip implanted;
  • Must have received an anti-rabies vaccination;
  • Must have undergone a rabies antibody titration test;
  • Must comply with any preventive health measure for diseases and infections other than rabies;
  • Must be accompanied by a duly completed and issued identification document.
  • Furthermore, pets must pass through a point of entry designated by Member States.

Not everyone wants to drive in the EU or take their pets with them, but just about everyone now depends upon their mobile phone to keep in touch with both the office and their friends and family. The document makes clear  that the cost of making a mobile phone call is almost certain to go up.

“Companies providing mobile communication services, such as voice calls, text messages or data, will no longer be bound by EU roaming rules when operating in the UK. This means that these companies may apply surcharges to UK customers using roaming services in the EU, and to EU citizens using roaming services in the UK.”

And what will life be life for UK nationals currently living in the EU – a demographic largely denied a voice in the EU referendum?

The paper issued by the EU on this makes clear what life will be like in the event of no-deal. “Once the UK has left the EU, UK nationals will no longer be EU citizens and will become third country nationals and therefore you will in principle no longer be covered by EU free movement rules,” it states. “This means, for example, that even if you have acquired permanent residence in a Member State, this does not give you the right to move and live in another Member State.Your residence rights as a third country national will be determined by national legislation and EU directives
concerning legal immigration.”

No social security rights


As for UK nationals with non-EU families, their “non-EU family members will no longer benefit from the rights they enjoyed under the EU free movement rules. They will not be able to rely on EU free movement rights even if they have acquired permanent residence in accordance with the EU Free Movement Directive before the withdrawal date. Their status will be determined by national legislation and the EU rules on family reunification.”

In terms of work and social security rights for UK citizens in EU Member States, life, too, becomes tougher. “In the event of a no-deal, you and your family members will no longer benefit from the rights you enjoyed under the EU free movement rules, when the UK was an EU Member State. Your situation will be governed by EU rules on third country nationals and national rules in the EU Member State concerned. While the situation will vary across Member States, many Member States are preparing to grant, for a certain period, a preferential status to UK nationals under national legislation. Where this is not the case, you will need to fulfil the specific conditions laid down by EU law and national law concerning third country nationals in order to continue to live and work in an EU Member State. Your social security rights may also change.”

A lot will depend, of course, on the goodwill of the EU towards UK citizens, but so much of that has long since been forfeited by figures such as Boris Johnson saying – when he was a member of the Government – things such as  the EU could “go whistle” when it came to expecting the UK to honour its legal obligations in regard to exiting the EU. This has by any standards been a very messy divorce and all too often on such occasions neither party emerges smiling.