How Brexit May Affect EU Travel for British Citizens

Since the EU referendum determined that the UK will cease to be a member of the European Union, there has been a state of uncertainty surrounding several issues. For example, UK citizens intending to visit countries within the EU are concerned at what changes may occur after Brexit. It’s important to remember that, although Article 50 (the notice of intention to leave) was triggered by Theresa May on 29th March, all rules and regulations will remain unchanged until the UK officially leaves in March 2019. However, it’s likely that many new conditions can be confidently predicted.

Driving in the EU

Rising premiums

British drivers may recently have noticed an unwelcome effect of some EU legislation that will raise the price of their premiums. Under previous rules, in the event of a collision, the driver found not to be at fault would be entitled to compensation from the Motor Insurers’ Bureau, providing their vehicle had adequate insurance. However, from the beginning of March, insurers within the EU have been legally obliged to pass on to customers a levy to cover the cost of compensating uninsured drivers for damage to their vehicles in a non-fault accident. This unpopular legislation is likely to be revoked in the UK after Brexit, but will remain in place throughout the EU with some unfortunate consequences. Whether a British holidaymaker decides to hire a car in the UK for a ferry-and-drive vacation or to fly to the continent and collect a rental car there, this additional cost will have to be applied to their short-term vehicle insurance for it to be valid within the EU.

What are my options?

One way in which some insurers may try to offset this increase is by raising the excess on policies, either as well as or instead of putting up the overall price, forcing holidaymakers to choose between a higher-cost, lower-risk policy or one that initially costs less but may leave them out of pocket in the result of an accident. A solution to this problem would be to purchase European Car Hire Excess Insurance, which would, in the event of a claim being made, cover the cost of any excess charges incurred as well as having additional advantages. This would give drivers the ability to opt for the least expensive policies where the cost of the excess insurance may well be less than the difference between that and the most expensive car insurance. Perhaps the greatest advantage, however, is the level of control it affords drivers, giving them a clear idea of their total insurance costs from the outset, regardless of what may happen on the journey.

Bringing cheap goods home 

Another impact of Brexit will be to make the days of driving into Europe to load up with cheap goods a thing of the past. While UK citizens travelling in the EU are currently entitled to bring back unlimited amounts of many items, a post-Brexit duty-free system is likely to be introduced. If the arrangements are in line with current ones, limits could include 4 litres of wine, 200 cigarettes and other items up to a value of £390; a fairly generous allowance, nonetheless.

Driving licenses

Driving licences, which are currently part of a Europe-wide programme, will probably still be recognised, although the design will change to remove the EU reference after Brexit. While the weakness of the pound has made buying euros more expensive, consequently making European car hire costlier in terms of rental and fuel prices, the fluctuations in the market may have levelled out by March 2019 and rental prices currently remain highly competitive.

Passports and visas

The government has announced a £500m programme to redesign the British passport in preparation for Brexit, but there has been no indication that passport holders will have to return or replace their EU passports early; this may change by 2019. It’s entirely possible, but by no means certain, that British travellers will need visas for European countries after Brexit, unlike the current situation in which all EU citizens have unfettered access to member states. As applications for visas can take as long as a month for non-EU citizens, this would effectively end UK access to last-minute holidays on the continent and, in conjunction with having non-EU passports, would definitely result in a slower progression through customs at airports and ferry terminals.

Healthcare and roaming charges

Healthcare negotiations

The current EHIC health card system, which allows EU citizens access to virtually free healthcare with a few additional charges, will also be subject to negotiation. Some non-EU countries have paid for a reciprocal deal, allowing their citizens to travel under the scheme, although it’s possible that UK citizens may need personal health insurance.

Charges scrap might be short-lived

In the short term, before March 2019, EU travellers are due to see an end to additional charges on mobile phone use from June 2017. This, however, will not apply to UK users after Brexit and it is likely that service providers will reintroduce charges on texts, calls and data for the British in the EU and, indeed, for EU travellers in the UK. As has been the case previously, there may be an opportunity for holidaymakers to put additional phone packages in place before travelling, to avoid excessive bills.

It’s not all negative

UK travellers are a very important part of the EU’s tourist industry and, as such, will remain valued after Brexit. Though travel will be slower at borders and will probably require more forward planning, the vast majority of your holiday experience will be unaffected by Brexit. Once Britain officially exits the EU, the same holidays that drivers enjoy now will still be available; the timeless journey from the vibrant Parisian streets to the sultry suburbs of Berlin will never lose its appeal. The coastal and mountain roads that stretch from Bilbao to Bordeaux will be just as picturesque and charming.