Now that the initial panic over Brexit has died down, thoughts have turned to the day to day practicalities that will come about as a result of the UK’s exit from the European Union.
In particular at this time of year so commonly dedicated to the booking of summer holidays, it has probably got many people thinking about how Brexit will affect overseas travel. There is lots of talk of the need for visas to enter countries in Europe as well as concerns over health insurance, travel costs and mobile phone roaming charges, amongst other things.
The main thing to remember is that until the UK officially leaves the EU, nothing changes. As a traveller, you will continue to have free passage between the UK and European countries, there will be no changes to the volume of goods you can bring back with you, European Health Insurance cards (EHIC) will remain valid and air passenger rights regarding compensation for cancellations and delays will stay in place.
The only immediate changes are associated with the fluctuation of the exchange rate, which has affected the costs of overseas accommodation as well as obviously general spending abroad due to the pound’s value having dropped against the Euro and Dollar.
If you already have a holiday booked for this year and your travel company levied additional charges due to exchange rate fluctuations, you should take a look at the terms and conditions provided to you to ensure they were actually allowed to do so. For package holidays, the company is only permitted to charge a maximum of 10 per cent on top of the original cost of the holiday. Different arrangements apply for other types of holiday so again check your terms and if in doubt, contact ABTA.
Passports and Visas
Your current EU passport will remain valid until the UK’s official departure from the EU and there is no official line at present on what will happen to existing passports after Brexit. If you need to apply for a new passport because yours is due to expire (don’t forget you need 6 months validity on your passport from the date of your return), then you should proceed in the usual way.
There is talk that visas will be required to enter European countries where they were previously not needed. This is all hearsay at this current time and of the many media discussions on the subject and example costs that are being bandied around, there is certainly nothing concrete. It is thought that agreements will be reached between the UK and many European countries that will negate the need for a visa, but again it is a case of wait and see. For now though, free passage within the European Union remains.
With regard to where to queue at the airport, again carry on as normal until such times as Brexit is finalised and alternative instructions are released.
Possibly one of the greatest areas of concern for travellers abroad is the matter of health insurance. Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which you should have if you are travelling to any country within the European Economic Area (EEA), will remain valid for the foreseeable future according to the NHS Business Services Authority and certainly until Britain officially leaves the EU. The EHIC entitles travellers to state-provided healthcare that is medically necessary for the duration of a temporary stay. It is valid across all EU countries together with Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
The UK has reciprocal healthcare agreements in place with other countries outside of the EU including Gibraltar, Jersey, Australia and New Zealand. It is worth checking the full list on the NHS website which also provides information concerning what healthcare you will be entitled to within each country, what you will be required to pay for in the event of a medical issue arising and what documents you will need to provide should you wish to make a claim.
When travelling to countries not covered by such an agreement, you should arrange your own travel insurance cover to take care of general healthcare requirements as well as medical emergencies. Remember also that even if you are holidaying within Europe, the EHIC is by no way an alternative for travel insurance. It will NOT cover you for emergency treatment, rescue or repatriation. Bearing in mind that treating a dislocated shoulder can cost up to £2,000 and the bill for being flown back to the UK with a fractured hip is around £10,000, there is really no two ways about it: you need suitable travel insurance.
Due to the exchange rate not so much being in the UK traveller’s favour, it may be that larger quantities of cash will be carried. It is important therefore to make sure you are covered by your cash limit, so check your policy in that respect.
With regard to the cost of travel insurance premiums post-Brexit, again nothing has changed as yet, but there are murmurs amongst the media that Brexit may affect some types of travel insurance. This is connected to the matter of the EHIC: if the right to an EHIC is removed, then it will be down to the travel insurance providers to fill in on the cover, which is obviously going to push premiums up.
There is also the issue of legal expenses insurance. There are currently laws in place that protect the rights of UK travellers in Europe. These are EU laws rather than British laws, one being Air Passenger Rights and the other the Package Travel Directive 2015. The first covers the cost of claiming compensation in the event of a flight out of an EU airport being significantly delayed or cancelled. The second provides legal expenses cover to make a claim in the event of being injured whilst staying in a hotel within the EU, allowing the action to be taken back in the UK and therefore entitling the injured party to the UK’s higher compensation levels. Should these laws not be adopted by British law, the legal expenses for these issues will need to be form part of the travel insurance policy and whilst they may not be compulsory, they will certainly be highly advisable.
Mobile Roaming Charges
Thanks to new EU roaming rules, the cost of making and receiving calls when abroad within the EU dropped significantly – by 90 per cent – and travellers now enjoy much more affordable communications. There is even talk that the EC wants to completely abolish roaming charges this year.
Until the official departure from the EU, these benefits will remain and afterwards it is said that it is likely that the Government will bring in a new law concerning roaming charges.
Travellers within the EU obviously enjoy the fact that they can bring back unlimited goods to the UK. Again this will remain the case until Brexit completes, and it is commonly considered that the free movement of goods between countries after the official exit will form part of the Prime Minister’s negotiations.
All in all, there is not much in concrete terms that can be confirmed as yet. Of course as official lines do come to light, we will be reporting them here on the blog and on our Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn pages, so please follow us and we’ll keep you up to date.