Love it or hate it, for better or worse, on January 31 the UK finally divorced itself from the European Union more than three years after the Brexit referendum.
So what will life actually be like in a post-EU world for British citizens? Well, it depends on who you talk to, but it could be the greatest thing that has ever happened, an apocalyptic disaster or, most likely, somewhere in between.
There is the transition period of course that will take us into 2021 with minimal changes on a macro scale, in terms of trade agreements, new regulations and that sort of thing.
However, there are some instant alterations that came into effect on February 1, and the more prominent of these relates to people who wish to travel to the EU zone from the UK – be it for business or pleasure.
Here, I just thought I’d give you a quick rundown of some of the key changes that you need to be aware of when travelling to a European Union member nation within the next 12 months.
Travelling to the EU
For the rest of 2020, not a great deal will change as far as travelling to the European Union is concerned.
You can still book holidays and business trips, and travel to and from EU countries without any problems or many changes to how you go about it – so, for now at least, you won’t need to worry about applying for a visa or anything like that.
However, that is likely to change as of January 1, 2021.
At that point, you will probably need to apply for a visa waiver from the ETIAS, which is the European Travel Information and Authorisation System. If you’ve travelled to the USA recently you may already be familiar with this process.
This will cost you approximately £6 and can be used for up to 90 days within a 180-day window. The ETIAS is valid for three years or up to the date of your passport’s expiry.
Do I Need a New Passport After Brexit?
There are some things you need to know about your passport in a post-Brexit world.
Firstly, your current passport will remain valid up until the expiration date that is printed upon it, and all of the regular rules we have become accustomed to still apply.
However, it is recommended that if you will have less than six months left on your passport at the time of your trip to the EU, you should apply for your renewal as far in advance of your travel date as possible.
As we get further into 2020, people issued with new or renewed passports will note that they come in a blue colour – that caused a huge furore when it was announced many moons ago.
Will I Need to Do Anything Differently at the Airport After Brexit?
Not really: the general process of checking in (where required) and passing through the various security checks will remain the same.
However, from 2021 onwards you will need to present both parts of your travel documentation when arriving in the EU, e.g. a return ticket home, to prove that you will be leaving the European Union member country on a specified date.
And right now, UK citizens pass through the EU lanes when presenting their passport to security staff at the airport – this is likely to change in time for 2021, with Brits likely to get their own queue to wait in.
Can I Still Drive in the EU After Brexit?
For the rest of 2020, the normal rules apply as far as driving in the EU is concerned.
But from 2021 onwards you will need to purchase an International Driving Permit for any road trips that you are planning.
These cost £5.50 at the time of writing and can be ordered online and from your local Post Office branch.
Note that different countries have varying requirements, though, so do your research before buying one.
Can I Still Use My European Health Insurance Card After Brexit?
If you have a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), that remains valid until December 31 and can be used in the normal way.
But then, as of January 1, 2021, we don’t know how healthcare for UK citizens in the EU will be catered for as part of any deal that is struck.
So, long term, we don’t really know if the EHIC system will remain in place.
Can I Still Get Free Roaming On My Mobile After Brexit?
There is no blanket agreement for free roaming in the EU, and the phone companies are still coming up with their terms and conditions for post-Brexit travel.
It’s likely that free roaming will continue with some of the main providers, however, although as ever you should check with them to ensure you aren’t lumbered with a hefty unforeseen bill at the end of your holiday.