Many aspects of our lives will be affected now that the UK has left the EU. In our Consumer Guide to Brexit, we outline the key areas where its impact will be felt and explain what action you may need to take as a result.
UK passport after Brexit
Your current UK passport will still be valid in the EU after Brexit. But it must have at least six months left before expiry from your date of arrival, and be less than 10 years old.
It gets complicated if you renewed your current passport before it expired. In this instance, extra months may have been added to your new passport’s expiry date. Any extra months on your passport, over the standard ten-year validity, may not count towards the six months that should be remaining for travel to most countries in Europe. In this case, double check your passport’s validity before you travel.
These rules do not apply to travel to Ireland, as Common Travel Area (CTA) rules on travel documents will not change.
You can read the official UK government advice on travel to the EU after 31 December 2020 by clicking here.
Travel visa after Brexit
Initially, UK passport holders will be able to make visa-free holiday visits to EU for 90 days in any 180 day period. But this is expected to change in 2022, when visitors from outside the Schengen Group of 26 EU countries will need to apply for the visa waiver scheme (similar to that for the USA).
However, individuals who travel to the EU/EFTA countries for short-term work or to provide ‘fly-in-fly-out’ services may need to comply with more stringent visa or work permit requirements.
Work visas may be required for work travel, although in most cases it will be possible to undertake some business related activities – such as business meetings – without a work visa. The rules around what activities will be permitted on short term business trips and visa requirements vary between member states. The UK-EU deal limits these short term business trips to 90 days in any 180 day period (although how this time period is calculated varies between member states). The UK government advises individuals travelling to the EU after 31 December to check the work requirements for the country you are visiting before you travel.
You can check the position for specific countries on this UK government site.
The UK has agreed a two year ‘Services Mobility Agreement’ with Switzerland, meaning work permits and lengthy processing times will not be required for the first 90 days of work in any given year.
Business people wishing to travel to the EU with commercial samples or trade fair goods, as well as musicians, filmakers and others wishing to take their equipment, will have to comply with new Customs Rules. A one-year ATA Carnet is available for non-perishable goods for a cost of £325.96 plus a security deposit from the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Pet passport after Brexit
Current pet passports are no longer be valid for travel to Europe. The EU has agreed that Great Britain should be given “part two listed” status, allowing pets to travel within its borders providing owners obtain an animal health certificate (AHC).
The new Global Health Insurance Card, and use of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) after Brexit
The UK government has introduced a new Global Health Insurance Card, which will replace the previous European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). This ensures that UK residents will continue to be able to access emergency and necessary medical care when travelling in the EU. You should apply at least 2 weeks before you intend to travel at the Official GHIC website. The card is free, so you do not need to use one of the privately-owned sites offering to apply on your behalf for a fee.
Please note, however, that unlike the EHIC card, the new card will not cover travel in Norway, Switzerland, Iceleand or Liechenstein – unless you are included in one of the specific categories detailed on the website. Full details can be seen there.
If you already have an EHIC, it will remain valid until it expires.
Separate travel insurance has always been recommended in addition to the EHIC card, as this do not include costs such as the need to flown back to the UK after an accident.
Flying after Brexit
UK airlines will no longer be considered as EU carriers and will no longer enjoy the same level of traffic rights across EU airspace.
UK carriers will be able to fly across the territory of the EU without landing; make technical stops in the territory of the EU for non-traffic purposes; and carry passengers and/or cargo on any routes between a given point in the UK and a point in the EU.
But they will no longer be able to transport passengers or cargo between two points in the EU, or operate services between the UK and two other Member States (e.g. Manchester-Munich-Warsaw). Nor will they be allowed to carry passengers onwards between the UK, a Member State and a third country. Ryanair and Wizz Air have already announced moves to enable them to become EU-based airlines, by stripping non-EU shareholders — notably British ones — of some or all of their votes from January 1. British Airways owner IAG and EasyJet are likely to do the same.
EU air passenger rights will continue to apply to flights operated from the UK to the EU by an EU airline, or to flights operated from the EU to the UK, whether operated by an EU or a UK airline. They will not however apply to UK-operated flights from the UK to the EU.
Nonetheless, the Agreement provides that both Parties will guarantee that effective measures are put in place to protect access to information for passengers, passengers with disabilities and reduced mobility, reimbursement and compensation, and the efficient handling of complaints.
Brexit-related issues such as travel delays may not be covered by your travel insurance policy.
Check what is and what isn’t covered and shop around for the best cover before you buy.
Driving in Europe
Your UK driving licence will be valid in Europe from 1 January 2021. Previously it was understood that UK drivers would have to apply at the Post Office for one of two (or both) international driving permits depending on the destination country.
But you will also need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in the EU and EEA if you have a paper driving licence, or a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man..To make things even more complicated, you may need more than one IDP. There are three different types of IDP. These are the 1949 Convention IDP; the 1968 Convention IDP; and the 1926 Convention IDP.
- To drive in Iceland, Spain, Malta and Cyprus you will need the 1949 Convention IDP
- To drive in Liechtenstein you will need the 1926 Convention IDP
- To drive in all other EU countries, plus Norway and Switzerland you will need the 1968 Convention IDP
- You can obtain these IDPs over the counter from most Post Offices. Each IDP costs £5.50.
Drivers of UK registered vehicles may also be required to have a GB sticker on their car when driving in the EU (including Ireland). This may be the case even if they have a GB symbol on their number plate.
If you are taking your own car or other vehicle abroad, you will need to apply to your insurer for a green card, which is proof that you have 3rd party cover. There shouldn’t be a charge – except perhaps an administration fee, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI), which says it will probably arrive via email. You should print it out and be ready to show it if asked by the police or other authorities. Northern Irish drivers who cross to the Republic will also need one. The ABI says the EU could end the green card requirement in the coming months, but until that changes you will need one.
Note that the Green Card does not provide comprehensive insurance cover.
Mobile phone roaming
EU roaming regulation means that you can use your mobile devices to make calls, send texts and use mobile data services for no more than you would be charged when in the UK. This will no longer be guaranteed after Brexit.
Check the roaming policies of your mobile operator before you travel.
Living in Europe
If you live in Europe, you need to check the position in your individual country.
Ireland will remain part of the Common Travel Area (CTA). British citizens will remain free to reside in either jurisdiction and enjoy the associated rights and entitlements without any registration process.
Buying property in Europe
If you’re thinking of buying a timeshare or a property in Europe after Brexit, the rules and regulations governing this transaction could change on a country specific basis.
You should take legal advice and ask for guidance on how Brexit will impact on your purchase before handing over any money or signing any contracts.
Studying in Europe
The UK government decided not to participate in the Erasmus + EU funding programme for education, youth, training and sporscheme after Brexit. Students already on the scheme will continue to be covered until the end of the 2020/21 academic year. The Irish government will continue to fund Erasmus+ grants for students in Northern Ireland, at an estimated cost of €2 million per year.
The UK government has announced a replacement scheme – called the Turing Scheme – with £100 million pledged to fund 35,000 placements and exchanges around the world starting in September 2021. Further details on how the scheme will work have not yet been announced.