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How will Brexit affect my holiday?

Posted on January 27, 2020 by Kelly Johnstone
departures sign at airport

With the UK set to leave the EU, many Brits are questioning how Brexit will change the way we travel to Europe.

Below, we’ve answered some of the common questions and concerns we’ve been asked about how Brexit will affect travel and the cover we offer. We’ve sourced Government advice for the most up-to-date information and will update this page as and when we receive new sources of information.

Or you can take a look at our Brexit & Travel Insurance key facts.

Created: 6 March 2019.
Last edit: 27 January 2020

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What is Brexit?

Brexit stands for ‘British Exit’ and is the term used to describe the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU).

The UK was originally scheduled to leave the EU on 29 March 2019 which was extended until 31 October 2019 and then again to 31 January 2020.

After 31 January, nothing much will change in terms of travel until the end of the year. This is because any current travel agreements will stand until 31 December 2020, while the UK and EU negotiate new arrangements (1). At this point, any new travel agreements will come into force.

Will my travel insurance still be valid after Brexit?

If you have, or are taking out a policy with Staysure, then Brexit should have no impact on the validity of your travel insurance policy. That includes our Single Trip Travel Insurance and Annual Travel Insurance policies for UK residents.

If you’re concerned about a specific scenario, then it’s worth checking your policy documents carefully to see what is and isn’t covered by your chosen level of cover.

Talking about the impact of Brexit, Julian Kearney, CEO of Staysure said:

“The way that we travel to Europe will inevitably change over the next few months and for some people, this may feel daunting.

“But when it comes to travel insurance for Brits and the services that we provide at Staysure, I’m pleased to say that it’s business as usual.

“No matter what Brexit deals are agreed, having comprehensive travel insurance is still highly advised by the Government for European travel.

“Although this advice is unlikely to change, we know that  add-on travel insurance from banks(2) may not provide you with proper protection when you’re older or if you have medical conditions. Some may see this seemingly free insurance as being slightly less risky when combined with the ‘safety-net’ of having an EHIC to use in Europe.

“If EHIC or other reciprocal healthcare arrangements aren’t agreed as part of Brexit, emergency medical treatment in Europe will be a lot more expensive for Brits.

“With the uncertainty over EHIC for Brits as a result of Brexit, it’s likely that more Brits will find out the hard way whether they’ve inadvertently undercovered themselves.

“We strongly believe that travel insurance is worth doing right. For us, that means taking the time to make sure that our customers understand the need to cover their pre-existing medical conditions and to tailor a policy to their travel needs. We hope that because of the support we offer our customers, they can still go on holiday knowing that even if the worst happens, that they’ll be covered.

“Brits may want to take extra precautions after Brexit when they travel to Europe – such as making sure they take out a travel insurance policy that has End Supplier Failure which adds protection for the collapse of EU suppliers to UK travellers.”

What will happen if my holiday can’t go ahead because of Brexit?

If your trip can’t go ahead because of Brexit, then it is your travel agent, tour operator’s or airlines responsibility to help resolve the issue.

If you’re worried about your provider cancelling your holiday, or part of your holiday, it’s important to check the terms and conditions from your supplier to make sure you’re aware of what will happen if they cancel your trip.

If you want to change your holiday dates because of Brexit, then in terms of your travel insurance, we are happy to transfer the period of cover as long as the departure date is within six months, but may be subject to additional administration fees.

Will I be covered by my travel insurance if if I’m stranded abroad?

If you have Staysure Travel Insurance, we can extend your cover for an extra 72 hours for people who find themselves stranded abroad due to their planned inbound journey being affected by Brexit.

Is my holiday to Europe protected for insolvency after Brexit?

If you’ve booked a package holiday to Europe from a UK based business, then your consumer rights and protection will not change if the UK leaves the EU.

If you’re unsure as to where your package holiday provider is based, it’s worth checking their terms and conditions to see the level of insolvency cover that they will offer after Brexit.

There is a risk that if you’ve booked a holiday before Brexit , that any protection for the collapse of the EU business will no longer apply to UK consumers once we leave the EU. In this case, if an EU business became insolvent, the protection for UK travellers would depend on the law of the country concerned(3).

If you’re worried about this happening -you will only be eligible to claim against your travel insurance for insolvency if you’re covered for End Supplier Failure. On Staysure policies, this is included in a Comprehensive policy.

Will I be able to drive in Europe after Brexit?

After we’ve exited the EU, drivers from the UK may need extra documentation, known as an International Driving Permit(IDP)(4) to drive in the EU and the European Economic Area.

But you won’t need an IDP if you’re planning on driving in Ireland.

Will passports be valid after Brexit?

If your passport expires after the Brexit deadline, it will still be a valid UK travel document so you won’t need to get a new one until yours expires(4).

It’s always a good idea to check the regulations for the destination you’re visiting. Some European places will need your passport to have at least six months remaining from the date you plan on leaving the country.

Instead of needing to replace your passport immediately, the Government will phase in the change when your passport expires (for adults, this is every ten years).

What changes will be made to British passports after Brexit?

Any passports issued in 2019 to early 2020 will still be burgundy in colour but won’t feature the gold etched ‘European Union’ on the front cover or first page.

A Home Office Spokesperson said: “Burgundy passports that no longer include the words ‘European Union’ on the front cover were introduced from 30 March 2019.

“In order to use leftover stock and achieve best value for the taxpayer, passports that include the words ‘European Union’ will continue to be issued for a short period after this date.

“There will be no difference for British citizens, whether they are using a passport that includes the words European Union or a passport that does not. Both designs will be equally valid for travel.”(5)

From late 2019 to early 2020, dark blue passports will be re-introduced(6).

As well as an opportunity to change the colour, the Government are also using this as an opportunity to update security.

Talking about the new British blue passports, Immigration Minister Brandon Lewis said:

“It will be one of the most secure travel documents in the world, with a raft of new security measures to protect against fraud and forgery.”

Whatever future lies ahead for the UK in terms of our exit from the EU the passport you are issued with will be valid for travel.

How will the free movement across Europe change for Brits after Brexit?

As part of the EU, Brits currently have the right to freely move between EU countries. Passports are still checked at borders, but they only check that you are who you say you are and so are allowed to travel there without a visa.

It means that EU check-ins are fairly straight forward in comparison to full security checks in other countries.

Travel to the EU will remain the same until at least 31 December 2020(1).

If the UK leaves the EU after 31 December 2020 without a deal, then travellers to any EU country within the free-bordered area of Europe called the Schengen area could be considered as ‘third country nationals’, with the same treatment as those who travel from places like Australia.

This means that if you’re visiting Europe, it’s a good idea to make sure your passport isn’t due to be renewed for at least six months from the date you plan on arriving in the country.

You may also need to be prepared to confirm that you have sufficient funds for your stay, or to prove that you have a return ticket or onward travel.

Being a ‘third country national’ will also mean that people travelling with a UK passport may only stay in the Schengen area for a maximum of 90 days in any 180 day period(4) without a visa.

The biggest change for some, is that upon arrival to passport checks, Brits would no longer be able to use the EU nationals speed-check lanes. This could add significant delays to your journey.

Will I need a visa to travel to Europe after Brexit?

If a travel agreement is not agreed as part of Brexit, then British travellers will not need a visa to visit Europe for short term stays up to 90 days – as long as it doesn’t exceed 90 days in any 180 day period(4).

If a deal is agreed on, this could change but is likely to mirror our own rules for whether EU citizens need a visa to enter the UK(7).

If visas are needed in the future, then UK travellers will be likely to need to apply online via European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS). If visas are needed to travel to Europe after Brexit, this system will not come into force until 2021.

If you’re planning on a visit to Europe but not within the immediate future, then it’s worth checking the current guidelines for entry which are kept up to date on the Government’s travel advice website.

Will I be able to use EHIC after Brexit?

If we exit the EU without a deal, Brits will not be able to use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access free, or reduced cost healthcare in most European countries.

If we exit the EU with a deal, the current agreement in principle states that the EHIC can be used until the end of 2020 – giving a few months grace period after Brexit to negotiate reciprocal healthcare agreements.

In the event that EHIC is not accepted by public hospitals or clinics while you’re on holiday and you have Staysure Travel Insurance, then it’s important that you call our 24-hour medical emergency support team who can make sure you get suitable treatment, subject to the claim being validated.

The Spanish Government have already created provisions in the event of a no-deal Brexit, ensuring a reciprocal healthcare agreement will be in place for both British expats and holiday makers.(8)

The Government’s current advice about the use of EHIC is that “UK nationals should follow current advice from the Government which recommends travellers take out separate travel insurance to cover any healthcare requirements needed in any country within the EU or outside. This is particularly advisable for travellers with a pre-existing or long-term health condition.”(9)

Will I be charged for mobile roaming for travel to Europe after Brexit?

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, UK travellers would no longer be able to take advantage of surcharge-free roaming across Europe.

This means that the offer of free-roaming from UK mobile companies may not be applicable after Brexit, or may be offered under different conditions.

That’s not to say that surcharge-free roaming will definitely be removed – suppliers such as 3, EE, O2 and Vodafone have said that they have no plans to change their approach to mobile roaming(10).

If you’re concerned about additional costs from your mobile provider for making calls, texts and using data while in Europe, it’s worth checking with your provider.

Will cruises or ferries be affected by Brexit?

Cruises and ferries should be largely unaffected in terms of cancellations that could be caused by Brexit as they are operated under international maritime law rather than European regulations.

However, it is assumed that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, there will be much longer delays at ports due to extra security checks that will be needed upon entering and exiting the UK.