EU TRAVEL IN A POST BREXIT, MID-PANDEMIC WORLD
Happy New Lockdown! So, it seems that 2021 has already exceeded expectations, and I think we’re all agreed that anyone contemplating dry January this year should be treated with due suspicion. On top of all of this, the UK finally left Europe with a hastily negotiated new deal. Without getting into politics, because God knows we’ve had enough of those, I think it’s time to start thinking about getting away, don’t you?
Of course, like just about everything else, nipping over to mainland Europe isn’t quite as straightforward as it once was thanks to the aforementioned Brexit deal. And what with trying to figure out the government’s latest move in Tier Chess as well as attempting to squeeze some kind of cheer out of the weirdest Christmas in living memory, you can be forgiven for not quite having fully grasped what the new deal means for your next European holiday.
Although international travel is once again banned, there is a flickering light at the end of the tunnel in the form of the vaccine. Should the government somehow manage to execute the vaccination programme successfully, once we have recovered from the shock of this feat, we can actually start thinking about getting our lives back. But we don’t need to wait until then to start planning. And lucky for you, I’ve detailed the new Brexit travel regulations in this handy guide.
90-DAY TRAVEL LIMIT
Britain and the EU have agreed visa-free travel for visits less than 90 days within any 180-day period. This 90-day limit can be used over a series of short visits or one longer visit. This is applicable to all EU countries, except the non-Schengen countries of Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania (visits to these countries are not included in the 90-day limit). Ireland is excluded from this and travel between the UK and Ireland remains unrestricted.
However, from a yet-to-be-decided date in 2022, you will need to purchase a visa waiver for all short stays in the EU. This will take on a similar format to the current USA Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) and will cost €7.
If you really had your heart set on escaping 2021 to that remote Scandinavian islet, at the time of writing, it remains unclear what your options might be. The UK government currently claims that Brits who have exceeded their 90 days will be able to apply for a visa to stay longer. Conversely, the European Commission states that once the 90 days are up, you would no longer be a ‘short stay’ visitor and would have to apply for a long-term immigration visa. Each country does have the right to set its own terms, so the picture will no doubt become a little clearer in the coming months and years.
EUROPEAN HEALTH CARDS & TRAVEL INSURANCE
If you currently have a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) it will remain valid in the EU until it has expired. A replacement called the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) is under development, however very few details of this and what it will cover have been released.
Regardless of what cover you still have with your EHIC or you will have under GHIC, neither is the same as travel insurance. The EHIC card covers necessary state healthcare, either free or discounted, and does not include repatriation after a serious accident or long-term care, for example.
PASSPORTS & IMMIGRATION
Before Brexit it was possible to travel within the EU right up until your passport expiry date. As of 1 January 2021, you will need to have at least six months remaining on your passport before entering the EU. This is applicable across ferry, flight, train and vehicle entries.
You will also no longer be able to use the EU fast-track passport control and customs lanes, so be sure to allow extra time at immigration. Additionally, you will be required to carry proof of a return ticket and could also be asked if you have enough money for your stay.
Before you take your car across to mainland Europe, you’ll now need to apply to your insurer for a green card as proof of coverage. This should be free of charge, according to the Association of British Insurers (ABI). The ABI has also said that this requirement could change in the coming months so make sure that you do your research before you travel. UK driving licences will continue to be valid in the EU.
Networks will currently allow you to use your monthly call and data allowance within the EU. The main UK mobile phone networks have said that they have no immediate plans to stop this in the short term, and as part of the UK/EU deal, there has been an agreement to cooperate on ‘fair and transparent’ rates for mobile roaming.
THE BOTTOM LINE
The impact that Brexit will have on your European holiday plans is likely to be fairly minimal unless of course, you intend to be there for longer than 90-days. This limit may very well change in the future as the EU countries, and the European Commission itself, tie up the various loose ends that have been left in the wake of the Brexit deal. Before you travel, just make sure that you do a quick check for the following:
- Do I have at least 6 months on my passport?
- Has the visa waiver programme started yet? If so, I need to apply.
- Do I have a return ticket and proof of funds?
- Do I have travel insurance?
- Do I need a green card for my vehicle? If so, contact my insurer.
After 2020, when contemplating a trip to the local park required research skills worthy of a PhD study programme, the above should be a breeze. So happy planning and please, I beg of you, have an amazing holiday.