By the end of this month, says the government, the United Kingdom will have left the European Union. The prime minister insists that he is working to secure an agreement, though there is no clear evidence of what that might be and how it would pass through the legislative process by 31 October.
The Conservative government has pledged to bypass the so-called Benn Act, which is designed to stop the UK leaving the EU without a deal on Halloween. And an advertising campaign by the British government insists: “The UK will leave the EU on 31 October 2019.”
The UK immediately becomes a “third country” and an entirely new regime of rules comes into play. British travellers who wish to visit the European Union must have a passport with a minimum of six months’ validity.
Crucially, no passport is regarded as valid beyond 10 years after the date of issue. For nearly two decades until September 2018, UK adult passport holders who were renewing their travel documents were granted up to nine months’ credit for unexpired time. So a passport issued on 30 April 2010 could show an expiry date of 30 January 2021.
But once Britain leaves the EU, it will be regarded by Schengen countries as expiring on 30 April 2020. So someone hoping to travel to one of these nations on 1 November 2019 would be ineligible, according to the UK government – even though their passport shows an expiry date almost 15 months ahead.
You can check whether your passport will be regarded as “Schengen compliant” at the government’s online service to assess your travel document.
Children’s passports were issued for a maximum of five years and nine months and therefore do not conflict with the EU’s 10-year maximum.
If you are abroad on 31 October with a passport that ceases to be valid it is extremely unlikely the authorities will pursue you or cause any problem when you come to leave, so long as you do not stay for months.
There is no clarity about when new blue passports will be available. They were due to become standard from this autumn.
These rules do not apply to travel to Ireland. The government says: “You can continue to use your passport as long as it’s valid for the length of your stay.” This is false; under the Common Travel Area passports are not required, though some airlines specify that they must be produced for identification.
British travellers will not need them for visits to Europe of up to 90 days in every 180 days – in other words, you can spend two stretches of three months in the EU each year, but they have to be at least three months apart. This will have an effect on people who like to spend the winter in Spain.
By 2021 UK citizens will need to apply in advance for an Etias, the “Euro-visa” that non-EU citizens from favoured countries must obtain.
The European Travel Information and Authorisation System is aimed at reducing the “migration, security or public-health risk” from nationals of visa-exempt third countries, which is what the UK will become after Brexit. It will cost €7 for three years – though many websites will inevitably seek to prey on travellers and charge many times more.
The government recommends: “You should always get appropriate travel insurance with healthcare cover before you go abroad.”
But many travellers rationally use the European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) as a substitute for insurance. From midnight on 31 October, in the event of no-deal, these will cease to be valid.
The government says: “It’s particularly important you get travel insurance with the right cover if you have a pre-existing medical condition. This is because the Ehic scheme covers pre-existing conditions, while many travel insurance policies do not.”
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says: “For many travel policies in the market, the loss of the Ehic is unlikely to lead to a meaningful change to terms and conditions; any reference to the Ehic would simply be irrelevant and customers would still be able to make medical claims.”
The organisation insurers warns: “Be aware that there is a small number of policies in the market that state they will only provide cover if you have and use an Ehic. Customers in this position should check their policy and contact their insurer.”
At present UK travellers benefit from free roaming across the European Union. The government says: “After Brexit, the guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway will end.
“Check with your phone operator to find out about any roaming charges you might get after 31 October 2019.”
Users are protected from mobile data charges above £45. “Once you reach £45, you need to opt in to spend more so that you can continue using the internet while you’re abroad. Your phone operator will tell how you can do this,” says the government.
Drivers will need an International Driving Permit (IDP), an antiquated document available at larger post offices. Take your driving licence, a passport photo and £5.50. You may need more than one; a 1949 IDP covers Spain, Cyprus and Malta, while a 1968 version is valid everywhere else in the EU.
Motor insurance will no longer automatically extend to the EU. Insurers will provide on request a “Green Card”, for which an extra charge will be made. The government says: “Allow one month to get this from your vehicle insurance company.”
To take a dog, cat or ferret abroad on 1 November, you should have contacted your vet on 1 July to begin the process, because it is not clear what veterinary rules the European Union will apply.
The government says: “To make sure your pet is able to travel from the UK to the EU after EU Exit in any scenario, you should contact your vet at least four months before travelling.”
It is not clear whether the “open skies” agreement will extend to Britain after Brexit, which may reduce choice and increase costs.
The UK is likely to receive significantly fewer European Union visitors as a result of the government’s insistence that tourists from the EU must have a full passport rather than an ID card. It is estimated that 100 million EU citizens have ID cards but not passports.
If this happens, it will reduce the transport links to and from Europe that would prevail had the status quo continued.
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