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What does Brexit mean for those travelling to and from the UK?

The European flag
The European flag   -   Copyright  Markus Spiske / Unsplash
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It has been a turbulent four and a half years in British politics, but on 31 December 2020 the UK officially departed the European Union with a trade deal approved by both sides.

The decisions made will impact every aspect of working relations between the UK and its closest geographical neighbour; but how will it affect travel to and from the island?

There is another obvious barrier to travel right now: Covid-19. After a new strain of the virus was found in the south east of England, the UK is currently under a strict lockdown. This bans all travel except for work, health or family reasons.

But once travel is allowed again, what do you need to think about before planning a trip? We’ve got you covered on all the information that’s currently available.

What travel documents does a British national need to travel to the EU?

  • UK nationals now require a visa if they want to stay in the EU for longer than 90 days out of a 180 day period.
  • On the day of travel, UK passports must have at least six months left and be less than 10 years old.

What travel documents do EU citizens need to travel to the UK?

  • EU citizens, EEA citizens and Swiss national ID card holders can travel to the UK for short trips without needing a visa. You can cross the UK border as long as you have a valid passport.
  • You will not be able to use an EU, EEA or Swiss national ID card to enter the UK after 1 October 2021 unless you have an EU Settlement Scheme permit, or travel rights including working, service and healthcare.

Can a British national still get free healthcare while in the EU?

  • European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) will remain valid until their date of expiration. The UK Government has advised this will be replaced by a UK Global Health Insurance card - full details are yet to be released.
  • UK citizens will still be able to use their passports to get emergency healthcare in Norway.
  • There are different rules for other countries such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania. Check national travel advice websites for more information.

Can British nationals take their pets with them on holiday to the EU?

  • From January 2021, pet passports will no longer be valid.
  • Pets can still enter the EU and UK respectively, but owners will need to obtain a new animal health certificate for every trip they make.
  • The advice is to allow one month to ensure you have the right documentation and the relevant health checks are complete before you travel.

Can British nationals travel to the EU for business?

  • Travelling to the EU (including Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein) to work for less than 90 days in a 180 day window may not require a visa or work permit - for example, if you’re attending a business meeting or event.
  • You might need a visa if your work involves: staying in the EU for longer than the 90 day timeframe; if you’re transferring to a company branch abroad; if you’re providing a service in a country where your employer has no presence, or if you’re self-employed.

Have there been any changes with food, drink, plants and produce?

  • Meat, milk and products containing them cannot be transported into EU countries.
  • There are exceptions including powdered baby formula, pet food or products required for medical reasons.
  • You’ll need certification to transport certain plants and plant products into the EU countries.

Can British nationals still take their cars into the EU?

  • Car owners from the UK will need a green card and a GB sticker.
  • The rules around EU drivers taking to the UK roads are subject to change in the future, but for now the pre-Brexit set-up remains in place.

Have there been any changes to the Erasmus programme?

  • Until 30 June 2021, all EU students who are studying in the UK have the ‘right to reside’, meaning they can remain in the UK without any additional paperwork.
  • After this date, students may need to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme. This will allow EU residents to continue to work, study and live in the UK.
  • Placements that begin after Brexit will not be eligible to apply for Student Finance England loans.
  • For UK students studying in the EU, any changes vary according to country.

Will travel insurance still be valid?

  • Changes to insurance policies depend on the country you’re visiting and the company your policy is with. It’s best to check with your insurer.
  • Generally speaking, travellers will need to ensure they have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) or a UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) once they are launched, alongside travel insurance with healthcare cover.
  • Consumer rights have not changed, so if your trip is delayed or cancelled, or if the business you’ve booked with shuts down, you should be able to claim compensation (again, depending on your policy).

Will UK phone data work in the EU?

  • This depends on the phone operator you’re with, so it’s best to contact them directly. Chances are there may be new charges involved.