Diverging from Europe will mean headaches for British tourists
Many people will be looking forward to a summer break, and for the third year in a row I will be heading to a European destination. I must say I have got used to my United Kingdom/European Union passport, which gives each British citizen additional rights not just in Europe, but anywhere in the world.
The rights and benefits of the EU passport and what could be retained for British citizens post-Brexit was an interesting subject for debate when the EU chief Brexit negotiator, member of the European parliament Guy Verhofstadt, recently appeared before the Exiting the EU select committee.
We do not often think of leaving the EU in terms of the loss of individual rights, but that is what will happen. And, in addition, British holidaymakers could be impacted in other ways.
In all likelihood, the UK and EU will come to an agreement – assuming relations do not sour – on 90-day reciprocal visa-free access for short-term visitors, including tourists and business people. There may be instances where UK citizens, and vice versa EU citizens, unknowingly overstay the 90-day period and are then subject to removal. None of this is going to be easy.
But the travel industry has outlined other possible barriers for tourists traveling to EU, including increased border visa checks leading to delays, increased complexity in gaining tourist visas, potentially fewer airline connections but also potentially fewer ferries or Eurostar trains if travel to the EU becomes less popular with UK residents.
Another impact of Brexit that could hit British nationals is the long list of agreements that EU citizens benefit from which make travel to the EU easy, including roaming fees (it is currently free to use mobile data abroad), the package travel directive (EU wide protection against package travel companies going abroad while on holiday), the EU health insurance card, the consumer price directive (which guarantees a wide range of consumer rights) and passenger rights (including the right to board and compensation for delays). These all could change after Brexit.
Costs are likely to fall on some of the most vulnerable in society. For instance, with regard to reciprocal healthcare arrangements, the Association of British Insurers has estimated that it will cost £160m per year to treat British citizens abroad without the EHIC.
What of currency costs? The strength of the pound plays a big role in the cost of travelling abroad. Since the EU referendum, the pound has lost around 20 per cent of its value against the euro, making travelling to the euro zone in particular much more expensive. The pound has shown little sign of recovering this lost ground, suggesting that this could be a lasting devaluation – reflecting the UK’s less favourable position outside the EU.
The concern is that continuing uncertainty as the first stage of the negotiations drag on, and worries about a no deal scenario come back into view, the pound could lose further value and face greater volatility in the coming months and years.
This would have a direct impact on travel costs and make holidays abroad more expensive.
Many UK tourists use casual work to pay their way (including people working in ski resorts). UK citizen’s rights to work in the EU post-Brexit may change (a similar point applies to UK students wishing to travel while studying in the EU – student visa requirements may become more popular). I am not sure much of this was written on the side of the bus during the referendum – but maybe if rights are lost as negotiations come to the crunch, they will be.
Seema Malhotra is member of parliament for Feltham and Heston
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