With around six weeks to go until voters go to the polls to decide whether we stay, or leave the European Union, it is time to take a look at some of the issues that could have an impact on the travel industry.
Both the stay and the leave campaigns appear to be based on what will happen if we don’t vote for them and neither side seems willing to accept anything the other says. What is likely is that if the polls continue to show a very close race, immediately before and possibly after, depending on the outcome, there may be volatility in the currency markets. It is clear that the City does not like uncertainty, perhaps a poll showing strong support one way or another ahead of the vote might reduce this risk.
It is clear that in or out the UK Government intends to proceed with the introduction of the new 2015 EU Directive on Package Travel, although the vote has meant the government feels unable to launch its consultation paper until the vote is over, and this is likely to ensure the government will follow the wording of the directive very closely due to the lack of time to make changes. This may not be of benefit to the travel industry as it leaves a lot open to interpretation and that is not what the industry needs.
If we do leave, one of the first casualties may be the benefits of EU261 which gives passengers rights if airlines overbook, cancel or delay flights. This regulation is automatically enforceable in all EU countries without any additional legislation but UK passengers may well find airlines denying claims after June 23 if the vote is to leave.
The European Health Insurance Card, which gives free or reduced cost medical care could also come to an end if the UK is unable to negotiate a deal with the rest of the EU. Norwegians voted twice, in 1994 and 2004 not to join the EU but recognise around one fifth of EU laws and enjoys freedom of movement for its citizens. Those who propose we should leave suggest Norway is a good example of a country surviving successfully outside the EU, the opposition suggest it has the worst of both worlds, it has to pay into the EU without having any representation at all at Brussels.
One of the areas that the EU has certainly influenced in recent years is employment law, many of the employment benefits enjoyed (or suffered depending on your views) come from Brussels and the out campaign suggest that leaving will make life much simpler for employers and therefore encourage more employment. The in campaign points out that over 20,000 Europeans currently work in the travel industry in the UK and hundreds of thousands more in other industries and leaving the EU may result in many of them having to leave the UK and create an employment nightmare, after all the English are not known for their language skills!
At the end of the day it is likely that members of the travel industry will make the decision based on personal rather than industry issues, and that makes predictions even harder than a normal election.
If we leave the EU, duty free comes back on flights to Europe but so do the duty free limits, so which do you prefer, cheaper or more alcohol, the choice is yours.
Andrew Burnham is a partner at MHA Macintyre Hudson, specialising in travel and tourism