How will Brexit affect Travel?

UK passport with Brexit text

Summer seaside vacations, city-breaks and guided tours are just some of the options that millions of people within the UK have been considering for their holidays within the EU, as well as by EU citizens wanting to visit the UK. With the decision of the UK government to press ahead with the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union, many are now considering how their holiday will be affected. Travel experts are hoping the two negotiating bodies will come to an eventual agreement with clear, reciprocal arrangements.

Value of the tourism sector

Planning travel into the UK or the EU as a foreigner once Brexit has been agreed is almost impossible since so much remains unclear. Whilst an individual’s holiday may appear insignificant in light of massive trade deals that must be negotiated as part of Brexit; tourism is big business valued at billions of dollars within the current 28 member states.

If the individual member states of the EU make agreements with the UK in relation to tourism, it is expected that these will be reciprocal, which means travellers may not see much change to the current state of affairs. If not, then ports, airports and all border entry points could experience significant delays due to increased demands placed on customs and immigration staff. The concern is that delays could be several hours or days at the English Channel as the UK meets the challenges of managing immigration and the importation of goods.

Check our article about how Brexit affect universities and students too.

Impact of ‘no-deal’ Brexit

After a no-deal Brexit, UK travellers be listed as "third country" citizens when passing through passport control in EU member states. It takes less than two minutes to border check each “third country” visitor, and this will be the major cause of delay if the UK and EU are unable to come to an agreement. passenger, this will add hours of delays at airports and Channel ports.

Air travel

An agreement has already been made in securing air travel between the UK and EU member states. In December 2018, the EU stated that it intends to allow flights from the UK into its airspace after Brexit, though changes to air traffic management could impact the number of flights available. After Brexit, UK airlines will not be allowed to operate intra-EU flights.

European Travel Information and Authorisation Scheme

In November 2018, the European Commission announced that a visa will not be required by UK travellers to the EU, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as long as the UK has a reciprocal agreement with European citizens. From 2021, UK visitors to the EU will have to apply for a European Travel Information and Authorisation Scheme (ETIAS), which is valid for three years. Available online, a single ETIAS will cost EUR7 and allow multiple entries. Free movement will remain for UK citizens visiting Ireland in accordance with the Common Travel Area arrangements between the two countries.

Passport validity

The UK government has already suggested that UK travellers check the date of expiry on their passport and have at least six months left when travelling to an EU country, double the previous 90-day requirement. This advice is offered even though the UK has not finalised its post-Brexit immigration policy.


UK travellers will be unable to use a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) to access free emergency medical care in EU member states after Brexit. Travellers using UK passports will need to add emergency health care coverage to their insurance premiums, paying extra for this cover.

Driving licences

In September 2018, the UK government released guidance for those driving in the EU. It is expected that UK drivers will have to apply for an International Driving Permit (IDP), available from Post Offices, to drive in the EU along with an Insurance Green Card. In Ireland, an IDP is not required by UK citizens but a Green Card, obtained from insurance companies, will be. EU citizens will not require an IDP to drive in the UK but will need a Green Card or evidence of insurance cover.

Mobile phones

In 2017, roaming charges were banned as part of an EU-wide agreement, which made calls within the EU significantly cheaper. A no-deal Brexit could mean EU mobile networks will start charging UK travellers as “third country” citizens and start to apply charges to access data, make calls and send text messages. To date, major UK providers have said they have no plans to raise roaming charges once the UK leaves the EU.

Exchange rates

The weak British pound makes the UK an attractive place for foreign visitors. However, media reports regarding food and medicine shortages and potential for civil unrest, as well as delays at entry points into the country, may deter some visitors, particularly those looking to take a short break.