Britons travelling to EU member states could soon be forced to stump up €7 for all new European border security checks, reminiscent of the US ESTA scheme.
Terms were agreed on Wednesday (April 25) between the EU Council and EU Parliament for a "European travel information and authorisation system", or ETIAS.
The EU says the agreement was an “important step” in protecting the union’s external borders. It will ensure member states know who may be heading to the EU before they arrive.
Discussion around the ETIAS scheme has been ongoing since November 2016 following the adoption of the European Agenda on Security in April 2015, designed to combat terrorism and security threats facing the union. A "general approach" to the concept was agreed by the council in June 2017.
The charge will apply to “visa-exempt third country nationals” travelling to the Schengen area, which could include the UK if no exemption is agreed as part of the ongoing Brexit negotiations.
So as an EU member state, even though it is not signed up to Schengen, Irish nationals would be excluded from the charge.
ETIAS authorisation will cost €7 (£6) and will be valid for three years. Travellers will be able to apply online ahead of travel, much like the US ESTA system.
Valentin Radev, Bulgarian minister of interior, said: “ETIAS will allow for advance checks and, if necessary, deny travel authorisation to visa-exempt third-country nationals travelling to the Schengen area.
“It will help improve internal security, prevent illegal immigration, protect public health and reduce delays at the borders by identifying persons who may pose a risk in one of these areas before they arrive at the external borders.”
The regulation will now be submitted to the European Parliament for a vote at first reading, and then to the Council for adoption. If it is adopted, it is understood the EU would seek to implement the system as soon as possible, potentially by 2020.
The UK is currently due to leave the EU on March 29, 2019, with a transitional period agreed until January 2021.
Should the ETIAS system be implemented, air and sea carriers would be obliged to check whether applicable travellers are in possession of ETIAS authorisation.
And a further three years following any implementation, overland coach carriers will also have to carry out ETIAS checks.
Additionally, authorisation - again like the US ESTA system - does not provide automatic right of entry or stay, with any final decisions to be made at the border by border guards.
The announcement builds on murmurs from within the EU of such a system that date back to 2016 - and is another worrying portent of where Britain may well soon find itself in relation to its nearest neighbours come 2021.
In short; Britons may soon have to pay €7 to travel to their favourite EU destinations. There is still time to negotiate an exemption or come to an agreement with the union to soften the blow, but it points to Brits facing more bureaucracy, not less, post-Brexit.