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Travel to the EEA for British citizens after a no-deal Brexit

26 September 2019

Despite many of Brexit’s particulars remaining up in the air, with 31 October fast approaching it is crucial to be aware of a no-deal Brexit’s implications for British citizens intending to travel to the EEA.

According to recent government guidance, there are a few key elements to bear in mind.

Passport validity

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, after exit day British citizens will need to have at least six months remaining on their current passport when they arrive in all EEA countries, excluding Iceland. Notably, those who hold British passports valid for over ten years cannot count the extra months at the end of their passport validity towards the six months needed. Those in such a position will need to ensure that their passport was issued less than nine and a half years before the date of they wish to enter the EEA to ensure that they will not be refused entry.

Those whose passport has less than the requisite six-month validity left should renew their passport as soon as possible to ensure that their ability to travel to these European countries is not compromised in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The Home Office intends to send text reminders to around one million passport holders, however these messages may not reach everyone who is affected.

It typically takes three weeks to renew a passport, but this can take longer during busy periods. For those who need to renew a passport more urgently, there are premium services where the passport is made available the same day as an in-person passport appointment. The online premium option must be booked at least two days in advance and allows the passport to be issued at a 30 minute appointment. The paper premium option allows the passport to be issued within four hours of the appointment, however if the appointment is in the afternoon the passport may not be available until the next day. There is also a one week fast track service where the passport is home-delivered within a week of the passport appointment. These services attract an additional charge.

Limitations on length of stay in the Schengen area

The EU has agreed to allow British citizens to enter the Schengen area (a free movement zone of 26 European countries) for personal or business travel without a visa as a part of its Brexit contingency plans. However, British citizens will need to ensure that they do not stay in the Schengen area as a visitor for more than 90 days in any 180-day rolling period. The European Commission has published a calculator which can be used to manage compliance by entering past and intended future travel dates. Time spent in the Schengen area should be closely monitored; those found to exceed the allowed stay could face a fine, removal or a temporary re-entry ban.

Those who wish to stay in the EU for a longer period of time will in principle require a residence permit or long stay visa issued by the country of intended residence or employment.

There will be no changes to the ability of British citizens to travel to and stay in the Republic of Ireland after Brexit due to the Common Travel Area.

Other considerations

In the event of a no deal Brexit, the following other changes will also apply:

  • Pets: EU pet passports issued to British citizen pet owners will no longer allow the relevant pets entry to any of the EU member states after Brexit day. British citizens who wish to bring their pets to an EU member state will need to obtain a third-country pet passport, with scope for the European Commission to demand that an animal health certificate is issued for each entry of the pet into the EU. The Commission advises that travellers should look closely at requirements for pets accompanying them to the EU well in advance of travel.
  • Mobile roaming charges: British citizens who use UK-based phone providers will no longer be exempt from roaming charges when in the EU.
  • Customs: After exit day goods brought into the EU from the UK will be subject to customs supervision. British citizens will no longer be able to enter through the ‘arrivals from the EU’ customs channel and will instead have to declare any goods which are subject to customs controls. Further information on goods which must be declared can be found here.
  • Health insurance: British citizens will no longer be able to access healthcare in the EU due to holding a European Health Insurance Card. Instead, access to healthcare will be decided between the UK and EU authorities as a matter of national laws. British citizens travelling to the EU are therefore advised to take out health insurance prior to travel and query whether their provider will reimburse healthcare accessed from a third country.
  • Driving in the EU: UK driving licences will continue to be recognised in most EU countries after exit day, with the exception of Ireland, Cyprus, Malta and Spain, where holders of UK driving licences may need to also hold an International Driving Permit. British citizens who intend to drive in these countries should contact the responsible local authority to confirm that their driving licence will be recognised and obtain receipt of this confirmation. Those who want to drive their own car will need a ‘green card’ from their insurer and a GB sticker.

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Following the UK’s departure from the EU, the Trade and Cooperation Agreement sets out the shape of the ongoing future relationship between the UK and the EU and provides some degree of certainty for UK businesses.

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