Brexit: Travel and Tourism

The UK left the EU on 31 January 2020. A transition period, during which EU laws continue to apply in the UK, is due to end on 31 December 2020. The UK/EU Withdrawal Agreement sets out transitional arrangements and negotiations for the future UK/EU relationship are ongoing.

Over 24 million EU citizens visited the UK in 2019, generating over £1bn additional revenue for the UK. Free movement of persons between the UK and EU will cease as of January 2021 and, with it, a new world of rules and complexities will apply. Perhaps more than any other sector, Brexit presents significant challenges for the travel and tourism industry.

Each EU Member State will need to take its own decision as to whether to require UK citizens to carry a visa. While many have indicated this will not be required, given that the UK is not intending to impose such measures on visitors to the UK, the position remains unresolved. Visa waivers may be limited in terms of duration and certainly will not permit individuals to work in another Member State. Between 12 and 23% of all UK hospitality jobs are held by EU workers. Often these jobs are temporary, or a means to earn money in the short term prior to returning home. Under current planned immigration rules, lower paid jobs will not be available for EU citizens, which will create potential staffing issues for the UK leisure and hospitality industry.

Flights and road transport currently benefit from open access to all EU Member States, as well as the right to operate within another Member State. That will all go after the transition period. The UK will need to negotiate open skies agreements with the EU, which will likely depend on equivalent rights being granted to EU airlines. Potentially UK airlines will not have the access they currently enjoy and routes intra EU are certainly likely to be restricted for UK airlines. Truck and coach operators will need to keep a close eye on the rules for vehicles, drivers and insurance, all of which will rely on bilateral arrangements. Private UK motorists will need to prepare for Green Cards and international driver permits to drive in the EU. 

The rules applying to package holidays and protections offered to air passengers are currently the same across the EU. The UK may choose to repeal or amend the Package Travel and Denied Board Regulations. 

We will be watching closely the efforts of the UK and EU to support travel and tourism but, for now, nothing has been agreed and much is uncertain.

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