Brexit: How will it affect my holidays to Europe?

Silhouettes of people at an airport Image copyright Getty Images

After Brexit life goes on as normal for British families - and that includes making plans for holidays.

Here's what we know about your holidays in the European Union after Brexit.

The EU rules apply to travelling to Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein as well.

Am I OK to book a holiday in the EU?

If you are planning to travel to the EU in 2020, you can expect everything to stay the same as when the UK was still an EU member.

Under the UK-EU deal, we are now in a transition period, when EU rules and regulations still apply in the UK.

The transition after Brexit day lasts until the end of 2020. The deal allows for an extension by one or two years, but the UK government has ruled that out.

During the transition, the two sides will negotiate their future relationship.

So if you are booking a holiday for 2021 or beyond, your rights will depend on the future UK-EU relationship, which is yet to be negotiated.

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What documents will I need?

The main question most people want to know is whether or not they will need a visa to get to the EU.

You can still travel freely with a passport until the end of the transition period. This applies to UK citizens going to the EU and EU citizens coming to visit the UK.

After transition, tourists from the UK will be allowed to visit EU countries for up to 90 days in every 180 days without a visa, but they will not be allowed to work or study. The EU says this will remain the case for as long as the UK gives the same visa-free travel to EU citizens who want to visit the UK.

Unrelated to Brexit, in 2021 the EU will also be introducing a US-style visa-waiver scheme, which people will have to use if they come from countries that do not need a visa for the EU.

It's called the Etias (European Travel Information and Authorisation System) and will cost €7 (£6.30) and be valid for three years.

When it comes to travel to and from the Republic of Ireland, nothing will change. British and Irish citizens will still be able to continue to travel freely within the Common Travel Area - the UK, Ireland, the Isle of Man, Guernsey and Jersey.

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Will there be bigger queues at the airport?

During the transition period there will be no additional border checks so airport queues should not be longer.

If you are wondering whether to join the "EU" or the "non-EU" queue at your destination, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) says you will be able to use "EU/EEA passport gates, until at least 31 December 2020".

What happens from 2021 will depend on the UK-EU talks on the future relationship.

Do I have to get a new passport?

No. Your current passport is valid for travel until its date of expiry, during the transition.

From 1 January 2021, for travelling in the EU, you will need to have at least six months left on an adult or child passport to travel.

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What about the European Health Insurance Card - EHIC?

The EHIC scheme is continuing during the transition period.

About 27 million people in the UK have the EHIC, which entitles the holder to state-provided medical treatment in the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. It covers both pre-existing medical conditions and emergency care.

What happens to your EHIC in the future will be decided in the negotiations on the future EU-UK relationship.

The government has warned that EHIC cards might not be valid from 2021 and has advised travellers to be sure to get the right travel insurance, especially if they have existing conditions.

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What will happen with compensation for airline delays?

Passengers will continue to be entitled to assistance or compensation if there are boarding problems, delays or cancellations.

The Department for Transport has confirmed anyone on a flight from the UK will have the same passenger rights that apply today, both during and after the transition.

What about ferries and Eurostar?

The government says your rights as a rail passenger using either domestic or cross-border rail services such as Eurostar will remain unchanged.

The EU regulations on rail passengers' rights as well as on rules on ferries, coaches and buses are incorporated into UK law, so the protection for passengers will continue in the future.

Are mobile phone charges changing?

During transition, the system remains in place that allows you to travel in the EU without being charged extra for "roaming" - so you can use your mobile for calls, text and data as you would in the UK.

What happens next year will depend on what is agreed about the UK's future economic relationship with the EU.

Even if nothing is agreed, the UK has passed legislation that would provide some safeguards to consumers, such as:

  • a £45-a-month limit for data usage abroad, after which they would have to opt in for more
  • informing consumers when they are about to reach their data allowance
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What happens if I want to drive abroad - will I need a new licence?

If you want to drive on your holiday in Europe in 2020, you will be able to do so without any additional requirements.

What happens after the transition depends on the arrangements with each country.

Some countries will require drivers to have an International Driving Permit (IDP), especially for longer visits, which can be bought at post offices for £5.50.

Specific advice for each country is available from the government's website.

For UK citizens living in the EU, it's a bit more complex. You may need to exchange your UK licence for a licence issued by an EU country.

Again, the government has issued specific advice for each country.

In some countries, if you wait until after the end of the transition period, you may need to take another driving test.

Is anything changing with duty free?

Duty-free shopping within the EU came to an end in 1999 and will not return during the transition.

Any changes after the transition will be determined by the EU-UK negotiations.

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Image caption In 2002, this dog was the first to travel to the UK using a pet passport

What about my pets?

Any pet passports issued in the UK will be valid during the transition.

If you're travelling with your pet for the first time in 2020, you'll have to visit your vet to get a pet passport.

Once the transition ends, the EU pet passports will no longer be valid.

The exact rules on what to do when travelling with your pet will depend on the future UK-EU deal.

The UK will be able to apply to the European Commission to become a "listed country" under the EU pet travel laws.

Being a listed country greatly eases travelling with pets.

The exact detail on what will happen if the UK becomes an EU listed country is explained on the government website.

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