Prime minister Theresa May’s historic defeat on her Brexit plan further reduced clarity on the type of deal the UK will end up with. So what do your customers need to know? Gary Noakes examines the key issues.
Iata hit the headlines, warning up to “five million” flights could be “at risk” in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
The uncertainty comes because should there be a no-deal Brexit the EU has only pledged to maintain the current level of flights to the UK after March 29.
Iata says this “does not allow for an increase in flight numbers in 2019 compared to 2018”, and adds: “Iata research estimates that up to five million extra seats are scheduled for 2019 compared to 2018… many in the peak summer season when families will be booking holidays. These are at risk if a no-deal Brexit occurs.”
This may alarm clients booking before March 29, but an Abta spokesperson said: “The limitation on flights at the same levels as 2018 is yet to be agreed.” This is currently awaiting a committee decision in the European Parliament.
The spokesperson added: “People who book a package holiday have the greatest level of protection, as it is down to their travel company to make sure their holiday is provided, or offer a full refund if that is not possible”.
The Department for Transport said the European Commission had published a proposal to ensure flights were maintained.
A DfT spokesperson added: “This clearly shows that in the event of no deal, both sides are committed to maintaining connectivity. These reassurances should allow businesses and passengers to continue to book and travel with confidence.”
Currently, UK passport holders will not need a visa to travel to the EU after March 29, provided the same privilege is granted to EU citizens, which is likely unless UK-EU relations become fraught.
The UK government advice is that after March 29, adult and child travellers “should have at least six months left” on their passports from the date of arrival. Note the word “should” is used instead of “must”, so once again, there is uncertainty. Also confusing is the advice that “any extra months on your passport over 10 years may not count towards the six months that should be remaining for travel to most countries in Europe”.
Since September, the UK has fallen into line with International Civil Aviation Organisation rules that forbid adding unused time (up to nine months) to UK passports. Because of this, some EU countries may decide that a passport expiry date does not include the six-month validity.
Things change from 2021, when UK citizens must pay around €7 for an EU visa exemption. This will be part of a new US-style Electronic Travel Authorisation System. The new rules will apply to UK, Gibraltar, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Jersey passports. Ireland will remain in the Common Travel Area after Brexit, so a driving licence or acceptable photo ID will suffice there.
Getting through immigration is another issue. Portugal is the first EU nation to offer dedicated UK lanes at its airports. Its prime minister Antonio Costa said special lanes will operate at Faro and Funchal “to ensure the flow is not interrupted”.
The government has confirmed if there is no EU exit deal that from March 29, 2019 “cruise operations will continue on the same basis as today. Passengers who embark on a cruise at a UK port will continue to be protected by the EU regulation on maritime passengers’ rights. Passengers should take out travel insurance, and check online before travelling for the latest information from their cruise operator”.
Up to 10,000 Brittany Ferries bookings have been modified to ensure critical supplies such as medicine can be carried after March 29, with DFDS also contracted. DFDS told TTG it “has not made changes to its cross-Channel passenger ferry timetables to make way for additional freight crossings”.
New advice issued on January 19 is that given a no-deal Brexit, UK drivers “may” need an International Driving Permit in addition to their licence, but not in Ireland. Staff living overseas must exchange their UK licence for a local EU licence before March 29 and may need to take a driving test in their country of residence.