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Brexit, huh? Everything you need to know

No one knows the exact outcome of Brexit; the news seems to change every day leaving everyone in the loop and still wondering what is actually going on. Well, do not fear, we’re here to put your mind at ease and answer some of those travel questions that you may overthinking and stressing about!

What exactly is Brexit?

We hear it being spoken about all time but what actually is it? Brexit is the name assigned to the UK’s process of leaving the EU, which will happen on the 29th March 2019. The UK and EU have negotiated a Withdrawal Agreement which explains the terms on which we will leave the EU and defines what our relationship will be like with the EU in the future. A variety of topics are covered, many of which relate to travel.

What is a hard Brexit?

The UK Parliament has to agree on the Withdrawal Agreement. As you might have seen in the news over the past couple of months, there has been a lot of debate as to whether or not this will all be settled by the 29th March 2019.  If an agreement cannot be reached, then we will be forced into a ‘hard Brexit.’ To put it simply, this means both parties walk away and any previous agreements become invalid. We can only hope that both sides avoid this, as the consequences could be harsh, especially on travel.

Will I need a new passport to travel to Europe post-Brexit?

Currently, providing your passport is valid on the date you return to the UK, any UK traveller can freely visit countries within the EU. As part of the Withdrawal Agreement, post-Brexit, UK travellers will have to have a passport which exceeds your return date. Bear in mind this is yet to be finalised, however if you are concerned, we recommend checking out this passport checker tool.

Will I need a visa to travel to Europe post-Brexit?

Under the current agreement that all EU travellers will be granted the same freedoms, UK travellers will be able to travel to the Schengen area for short stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period, without needing a visa. Even in the worst-case scenario of a hard Brexit, this agreement remains the same. By the 30th March 2019, this should all be finalised (fingers crossed).

In 2021, this all changes. UK travellers will then be part of the new European Travel Information and Authorisation System (ETIAS) which is a bit like the ESTA regime used for travel to the US. The ETIAS system will require every traveller to the Schengen areas to have an electronic travel authority (ETA), issued before they travel. You’ll be able to apply for an ETA online, it’ll cost 7 euros and will be valid for three years.

Before you board, airlines and ferry/cruise companies will have to check that UK travellers have a valid travel authorisation on them.

Will I still be able to use my EHIC card?

EHIC stands for European Health Insurance Card. Basically its an essential travelling companion which assists those who need emergency medical treatment when they’re away anywhere in the EU.  The UK Government wants UK and EU nationals to be able to continue using the EHIC on holiday, however there is the possibility this may not happen.

In the case of a hard Brexit, any right to use the EHIC card will terminate immediately. We therefore advise, travellers have the right travel insurance in place, which includes cover for medical emergencies.

Travellers should also be aware that a UK issued medical prescription will not be accepted in pharmacies throughout the EU. It is important that you bring enough of your medication away with you- so you don’t find yourself in a difficult situation.

If my flight is delayed, will I get any compensation?

No one wants to be delayed, we get it, it’s the worst! Now, under the European passengers’ right rules, UK travellers are eligible to claim compensation of up to €600 from the airline, based on how long they’re delayed for and the length of their flight. However, this does not apply to uncontrollable circumstances, for example horrendous weather.

In the case of delays caused by a hard Brexit, it can be argued that it would not qualify for this scheme, as the situation is out of the airline’s control.

Once again, this is where quality travel insurance comes in. Under all Alpha travel insurance policies, we’ll offer you a benefit per 12 hours that you’re delayed at your international departure point for your outbound trip. If you’re still there after 24 hours, we’ll also cover you to abandon your trip.

After Brexit will my airline still be able to fly?

Right now, there is an ‘open skies’ agreement, meaning planes can travel where ever they like across the whole of the EU.  By leaving the EU, the UK will no longer be part of this agreement. The good news however, is that the UK has already negotiated agreements to fly to the USA and Canada, and most long-haul destinations.

Whether or not an airline will be able to fly to an EU country, depends on whether the UK Government can come to an agreement with those countries. On the 13th November, The European Commission announced its Contingency Action Plan, which states that if there was to be a hard Brexit, then a bare bones agreement will be introduced which basically means that, whilst terms have not been agreed, planes will still be able to fly.

The main worry, is that if there is a hard Brexit, UK airlines may not be able to fly from an EU airport to a destination other than the UK.

Will my driving license still be valid in the EU post-Brexit?

Currently UK residents are able to drive in any EU country so long as they have a full UK drivers license. This will remain unchanged, as agreed in the Withdrawal Agreement. In the case of a hard Brexit, UK drivers will have to buy an international driving permit (IDP) which you’ll find at the Post Office, and costs £5.50.

This is the confusing bit. There are 3 different types of IDP- there’s IDP 1926, 1DP 1949 and IDP 1968. If you are travelling through Europe, you might need more than one IDP, as you’ll need:

No matter the Brexit outcome you will not need an IDP to drive in the Republic of Ireland.

If you already have an IDP, check that it is still acceptable in the country you’re visiting.

If you’re still a bit confused, find out more about the IDP here.

Will I need a green card if I’m taking my own car on holiday after Brexit?

Currently all member states are part of what’s called the ‘free circulation zone.’ Basically, this means that vehicles from those countries do not need to carry any paper documents on them confirming their insurance.

In the scenario of a hard Brexit, this arrangement will become void for UK motorists, and they will have to carry a Green Card on them. This is a paper document, you guessed it- printed on green paper, which guarantees that the driver’s insurance company will cover any claims made against the driver whilst in the EU.

If you still have questions, why not check out this helpful Q&A from The Association Of British Insurers or read this helpful guide from The Department of Transport.

Will duty free still be a thing after Brexit?

We all love a bit of duty free and you’ll be pleased to know that, even if we were to have a hard Brexit, travellers between the UK and EU will still be entitled to duty free allowances on selected goods. This being said there could be different allowances for those entering the EU and those entering the UK.

For more information on duty free entitlements when you’re travelling to the EU, have a look at the European Commission website.

Chances are the rules that currently apply to people coming to the UK from outside the EU, will now also apply to those coming from the EU. So, this means that the blue customs channel in the arrival hall will no longer be a thing, so you’ll have to choose between the red and green channels only.

What happens if my tour operator cancels my holiday because of Brexit?

Understandably, there is a lot of worry surrounding holidays being cancelled. Currently travellers on package holidays have some rights under the Package Travel Directive (EU) 2015/2302. The UK Government have already prepared for Brexit and included this into UK law under The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangement Regulations 2018.

Under this legislation, if you were to purchase a package holiday which is cancelled for ANY reason (besides the customer cancelling or failure to show up at the airport or meet contract obligations) the tour operator MUST give you a full refund.

From what we know, if a package has been booked prior to the 29th March, and the tour operator cannot provide the services you’ve booked and paid for because of a hard Brexit, you would still be entitled to a full refund, however would not be entitled to any additional compensation.

Now if you’ve arranged each component of the holiday yourself separately, before the 30th March, it gets a little complicated, for example, you’ve booked flights and accommodation independently. If there was to be a hard Brexit, the airline could be grounded, so you would be entitled to a full refund of the flight. However, the accommodation provider can argue that the villa or hotel is available and refuse a refund. Sadly, you would then be at a loss.

Will I have to pay a surcharge on my holiday after Brexit?

Under the Post-Brexit legislation, tour operators can increase package prices, but only under certain circumstances. An example being exchange rates that were applicable to the package, such as accommodation costs.

Rules do apply though, including:

 

What happens if my tour operator or airline ceases trading because of Brexit?

There is always the chance that a tour operator, airline, accommodation provider or another supplier of a trip component could experience financial struggles as a result of hard Brexit (if this happens).

Currently under EU regulations if you’re travelling as part of a package holiday you are entitled to some rights under Package Travel Directive (EU) 2015/2302.The UK Government have prepared for Brexit and have made this part of UK law under The Package Travel and Linked Travel Arrangement Regulations 2018. This acknowledges that tour organisers have an obligation to protect customer’s money, either by way of an insurance arrangement, or by having a specified trust account. Travellers booking with most UK travel agents and tour operators will be protected either by the ABTA and ATOL bonding schemes or something similar to the Travel Trust Association.

If you have arranged your holiday components separately e.g. accommodation and flight, you might have some protection if you have purchased via credit or debit card, under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974.

If neither option is available, then you could claim on your travel insurance policy, providing you have cover for financial failure added onto your policy. This also applies a supplier of a trip component ceases trading whilst your away. The policy will contribute towards you getting home via transportation similar to what you originally booked.

Will my travel insurance be valid after Brexit?

Both the EU and UK have confirmed that there has to be a ‘continuity of cover’ for insurance policies underwritten by EU and UK insurers.

This means that any policy purchased post-Brexit will offer the same cover as per the policy wording when it was purchased. This is the same for both EU and UK residents (where applicable).

Any customers who are travelling to the Schengen area when Brexit happens will continue to be covered.

What Brexit Related Risks are covered by my travel insurance?

 

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