Brexit, European Travel and Red Tape
Britain’s exit from the European Union continues to progress, albeit slowly, with a number of issues still unresolved. While the British government and the European Commission argue over the questions of the Northern Ireland border and trade agreements and restrictions between the two bodies one thing seems at least clear: travel to, from and within the remaining European states is going to be somewhat problematical for British citizens. So much so that the British government has seen fit to publish contingency details for travel should post-Brexit agreement on the matter not be reached.
European Visa Required?
Presently, British passport holders do not need a Schengen visa or any form of European visa to travel freely within the European zone. Unless Britain decides, via another referendum or other means, the EU travel situation is set to change after Brexit comes into effect in March of 2019. Regardless of if the two bodies can strike a deal, Britons will need a valid ETIAS to travel to EU member countries. Once Britain leaves the European Union, Britain will become a “third country” and the rules regarding passport validity and visa requirements will change considerably.
According to the Schengen Border Code all third country nationals must possess a passport that is valid for at least three months following the departure date from the European zone. As the Schengen Visa allows a stay of three months after arrival the British Government is recommending that passports should be valid for six months following the date of arrival to cover this Schengen requirement. Another problem for British passport holder is that the Schengen Code doesn’t recognise any non-EU passport which is valid for over ten years. This would result in Britons who hold a ten-year passport finding it unacceptable and having to apply for a new shorter term passport.
ETIAS is NOT a European Visa
Running in the background of Britain’s upcoming withdrawal from the European Union is the introduction of the new European Travel Information and Authorisation System or ETIAS. Scheduled to come into operation in 2021, ETIAS is a pre-travel screening process and is intended to increase border security and control migration throughout Europe. ETIAS approved passports will be mandatory for current visa-exempt countries but after Brexit British passport holders will require a European or Schengen visa to enter the greater European area. Whether or not Britons will require a visa for European travel if they are denied an ETIAS is still in question.
Increased Cost of European Travel for Britons
Applying for and attaining ETIAS approval will come at a cost. Although the process should be quick and simple and done online there will be a fee involved which is currently estimated at around 7 Euros and valid for a period of three years. While the cost of ETIAS approval may seem fairly reasonable the same cannot be said for the price of a visa. A Schengen Visa (which covers most of the remaining European countries) currently costs 60 Euros but this could soon rise by another 20 Euros if EU ambassadors follow through on a recent proposal. The blame for this possible (and likely) increase is being attributed to Brexit. Britain is one of the biggest EU taxpayers and the loss of revenue will have an impact on Europe’s plans for increased border security and the upgrading of travel information databases. How the British Government would react to these additional fees being forced upon its citizens is unclear but it has been proposed that European visitors to Britain will be charged as much as £10 for a single-entry visa to the United Kingdom.
Change of Passports
The appearance of the British passport is also set for an overhaul following Brexit. Passports issued after the end of March 2019 will no longer bear the words “European Union” and blue passports will be issued beginning later the same year.
British drivers may face yet another problem arising from Brexit. An International Driving Permit (IDP) could conceivably be required for driving within the European zone. To add to the confusion there are two types of IDP in operation in Europe. Most European countries recognise the 1968 Geneva Convention IDP while the earlier 1949 Venice Convention IDP is valid in Spain, Cyprus, Malta and the Republic of Ireland. The situation becomes more complicated as a UK driver travelling by road from England to Spain via France would require both varieties of IDP to stay on the right side of local law enforcement agencies.