Brexit’s impact on travelling from Britain

Stuart Forster

written by
Stuart Forster

updated 06.01.2021

From 1 January 2021 the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union looks set to impact travellers in a variety of ways.

Here’s some of the most frequently asked questions about Brexit and its impact on travel from Britain.

When will the impact on travel start?

When will Brexit start to have a practical impact on travel from Britain?

On 23 June 2016 over 72 per cent of the UK’s electorate of 46.5 million people participated in a referendum about the country’s membership of the EU.

The question was asked, “should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union or leave the European Union?” More than 17.4 million or 51.9 per cent of votes were cast to leave the EU.

As a result, the UK left the EU at 11pm on 31 January 2020. Few changes could be noticed during the Brexit transition period which continued until the end of 2020.

Travellers will start to notice Brexit’s practical impact on travel from 1 January 2021. Changes will be introduced in how things are done and documentation requirements while travelling from Britain to the EU’s 27 member states.

Entry requirements for seven other non-EU member states are also impacted. Those countries are Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and the Vatican City.

Brexit airport - Stux Pixabay

What are the changes for passports?

What changes are being introduced about passports?

Check your passport is valid before travelling.

From 1 January 2021, UK passports must have been issued within 10 years of your arrival date in the EU (except for the Republic of Ireland) and the seven non-member states listed above.

Your passport must also have at least six months validity before its date of expiry.

Some UK passports issued as replacements have expiry dates of up to 10 years and nine months after their date of issue. Any additional time beyond the initial 10 years is no longer deemed valid.

That means a UK passport issued on 1 June 2011 with an expiry date of 1 March 2022 would not be valid for travel on a 2021 Valentine’s Day weekend break in an EU city (except to destinations in Ireland).

Of course, new UK passports no longer display ‘European Union’.

Do I need a visa to the EU?

Is a visa now needed for leisure travel between the UK and EU?

In 2022 the EU will introduce a visa-waiver programme, similar in concept to the USA’s Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA).

The European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) will require visa-exempt travellers aged between 18 and 70 to apply online, submit data and pay a €7 fee.

Once approved, an ETIAS will be linked to a passport and valid for up to three years.

Is a visa required for business travel to European countries?

The UK-EU agreement reached in December 2020 means that business travellers attending meetings, events and conferences in EU countries do not need visas.

Guides to European nations’ regulations for business travel and providing services are listed on the UK Government website.

Visa stamps in a passport

How long can I stay in the EU?

How long can UK passport holders stay in the EU?

UK passport holders will be permitted to stay for up to 90 days out of any 180-day period in the EU’s Schengen Area.

Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, the Republic of Ireland and Romania are not part of that area. That means you are permitted to spend time in them in addition to your 90-day limit in Schengen Area.

Do I need to queue at passport controls?

Will UK passport holders need to queue to go through European passport controls?

Be prepared to queue on arrival in European countries. UK passport holders will no longer have the right to use border control lanes designated for the citizens of the EU, EEA and Switzerland.

Can I be turned away at the border?

Can UK passport holders be turned away from EU borders?

Border control staff may ask arrivals from the UK to show a ticket for return or onward travel before being allowed entry.

Additionally, you may have to show proof of adequate funding to support yourself while travelling in the EU.

How about travel to Ireland?

Will travel from the UK and Northern Ireland to the Republic of Ireland be impacted?

Travel to the Republic of Ireland will not be affected by changes introduced elsewhere in the EU in 2021. The Channel Islands, Isle of Man, Ireland and UK form the Common Travel Area.

How about food on trips?

Will the food I pack for trips to EU countries have to change?

Travellers from the UK will no longer be permitted to carry meat, milk or products containing them into the EU. Exceptions include powdered infant milk or food, special pet feed and special foods required for medical reasons.

Rather than packing a Cornish pasty or Scotch egg, how about a dozen oysters for lunch? Some animal products are allowed, including up to two kilograms of live snails, mussels, oysters or honey.

Carrying up to 20 kilograms of fishery products is also permitted or one fish, if that’s higher.

Can I use my European health insurance?

Can I use my European Health Insurance Card in Europe after 1 January 2021?

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) has been issued free-of-charge since 1 June 2004.

Holders of UK-issued EHICs have been permitted to access state-provided healthcare during temporary stays in EU countries as well as four other countries of the European Economic Area (EEA) – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

The UK and EU reached a reciprocal healthcare agreement in December 2020. As a result, UK-issued EHICs will remain valid in EU countries until their expiry date.

From 1 January 2021 most UK-issued EHICs will no longer provide coverage in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. That means UK students already on courses or placements in those countries must apply for a new EHIC to qualify for healthcare.

Most applicants for new or replacement cards will be sent the UK’s successor to the EHIC, the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). But in certain instances, the UK will continue to issue new EHICs. Frontier workers, workers posted abroad and UK state pensioners – plus their family members or dependents – as well as students fulfilling relevant criteria may apply for new EHICs.

Every UK traveller, including children aged under 16, should carry a valid EHIC or GHIC to countries where they are valid.

Additionally, travellers should have comprehensive travel insurance – including health care coverage.

The European Health Insurance Card

Can pets still travel to European countries?

From the start of 2021 pet passports issued in Great Britain are no longer valid for trips to the EU and Northern Ireland.

Instead, pet cats, dogs and ferrets will need an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) issued by a vet within 10 days of entry to another country. The animal must be microchipped, be at least 12 weeks old and vaccinated against rabies.

The AHC will be valid for up to four months for onward travel or returning to Britain.

You’ll need a new AHC for each of your pets – up to a maximum of five animals – on each trip.

Allow up to a month to get the vaccinations and documentation needed to travel.

Do I need to pay roaming charges?

Will roaming charges be reintroduced for mobile telephone usage?

Surcharges for mobile telephone usage while travelling in the EU, known as roaming charges, were abolished in 2017. From the beginning of 2021 there’s longer a guarantee of not being billed additional charges while travelling in Europe.

That said, the UK’s main operators have stated they have no plans to reintroduce roaming charges for telephone usage in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway.

Additionally, a UK law has been introduced so that you will not be billed more than £45 for mobile data charges without your knowledge. You can choose to opt-in to use data beyond the £45 cap.

What about the pound exchange rate?

Will Brexit impact the value of the pound and exchange rates?

Financial markets assess multiple factors while weighing up the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats impacting the health of economies. Instability and uncertainty tend to unsettle financial markets and the exchange rates between currencies.

Ahead of the EU referendum, the pound’s exchange rate against the euro climbed to €1.31 then fell more than 10 cents over the following days.

The pound’s value against the US dollar fell sharply immediately after the UK voted to leave the EU. At one point on 24 June 2016 the pound dropped by more than 10 per cent to $1.3236.

The long-term impact of Brexit on the value of the pound against the euro, as well as other European and global currencies remains to be seen.

Will drivers be affected?

Thinking of using your own vehicle to drive in the EU? You’ll need to display a GB sticker unless your number plate does so.

You’ll also have to carry a physical copy of the green card – proof that you have vehicle insurance. Extra green cards are needed if you have a caravan or trailer, insurance that renews during a trip or multi-car insurance policies.

Allow plenty of time as being sent a green card can take up to six weeks.

You’ll also need a Vehicle Log Book (VC5) or proof that you’re permitted to drive a leased or hired vehicle abroad (VE103).

If you have a paper driving licence you may also need an International Driving Permit.

Driving licences in the UK

Stuart Forster

written by
Stuart Forster

updated 06.01.2021

Stuart is an award-winning travel writer whose work has been published in magazines such as National Geographic Traveller, Wanderlust plus Food and Travel. From the north-east of England, he has lived in Germany, India and Portugal. He travels frequently to Canada and the Netherlands. Follow him @goeatdo on Twitter & Instagram.

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