On Jan. 31, 2020, Britain formally withdrew from the European Union after nearly half a century of membership, but what does that all mean for your corporate travel program and business travelers? Our Brexit Readiness team, which has been monitoring the Brexit negotiations since the referendum in 2016, breaks it all down in the Q&A below.
The good news is little is changing during the “implementation period” from Jan. 31 to Dec. 31, 2020. However, because Brexit could have a significant impact on business travel in 2021, we will be featuring a series of Brexit articles on individual topics over the next few months, so you have plenty of time to prepare.
What happened on Jan. 31, 2020?
The UK formally left the EU on this day. The Withdrawal Agreement Bill allows for the provision of a transition period until Dec. 31, 2020. During this phase, aka the “implementation period,” the UK will continue to follow EU rules (with a few exceptions) as a free trade agreement is ironed out between the two parties.
What happens if no free trade agreement is reached by Dec. 31, 2020?
If at the end of 2020 no agreement has been reached, and no extension has been granted, the implementation period would end and the UK would effectively end up in a no-deal scenario in which there would be no agreements in place about what the relationship between the UK and the EU will be like in future.
Will there be visa-free travel between the UK and EU?
During the transition period, UK citizens can visit the EU without a visa and EU nationals can enjoy the same freedom when visiting the UK. After the completion of Brexit, visa-free trips likely will continue for at least temporary stays, even if no agreement has been reached.
Deal or no deal, when the UK leaves the EU, UK nationals will (probably) need to obtain a European Travel Information Authorization System (ETIAS) visa waiver to enter the EU, starting in 2021.
Tip: Need to obtain a visa or passport quickly? We offer expedited services through our third-party supplier, CIBT.
Are there any new passport/border considerations for UK citizens traveling to EU countries?
Until the end of 2020, UK citizens may travel to EU and European Economic Area (EEA) countries, as well as Switzerland, with a passport that’s valid for the length of their stay. In the event of a no-deal situation, they will need a passport that has been issued within the last 10 years and has at least six months’ validity remaining on the date of arrival.
Tip: Not sure of your status? Use this tool to find out whether you will need to renew your passport before your trip, but we recommend having a passport with six months’ validity as a best practice anyhow.
Are there any new passport/border considerations for EU citizens traveling to the UK?
EU citizens may enter the UK as they do now, using their passport or national identity card. EEA national ID cards will be phased out for travel to the UK at some point during 2020, and details are expected to be provided by the UK government shortly. In a no-deal scenario, travelers with settled status under the EU Settlement Scheme will still be able to use their EEA identity card to enter the UK until at least December 31, 2025.
Tip: EU citizens should make sure they have a biometric symbol on their passport. Those who do may use the eGates at UK airports and will not face routine questioning by a Border Force officer.
Will there be any disruption to flights, now or in the future, as a result of Brexit?
During the implementation period, flights between the UK and EU countries will not be affected by Brexit. In a no-deal scenario, the UK would no longer be part of the EU’s single aviation market. If no other arrangement is reached, it may impact flights in and out of the UK, but it is too early to know what the level of disruption may be.
Tip: We don’t anticipate massive Brexit-related flight disruptions, but if they do arise, our Proactive Traveler Care™ service, which automatically monitors for flight delays and cancellations and offers rebooking assistance to impacted passengers, can help alleviate the situation.
Will Brexit impact driving license rules?
During the implementation period, UK motorists will only need their driver’s license when driving within the EU. But that may change at the end of the year since they may need an international driving permit (IDP) as well. Those who are driving UK-registered vehicles within the EU will also need to carry a green card from their motor insurer.
EU citizens will not need an IDP after Brexit to drive within the UK – just their regular driver’s license. Those whose vehicles are insured in an EU or EEA country will have to carry a motor insurance green card.
Tip: To avoid the hassle of obtaining a green card and IDP, forgo driving and use our Ground Transportation platform to book yourself a ride.
Will UK citizens still have health insurance coverage in the EU?
European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs), which entitles UK nationals to state-provided medical treatment when traveling within the EU, remain valid during the implementation period. If reciprocal agreements are not reached by the end of the year, then UK citizens’ EHICs will no longer be effective and they will not be covered when traveling within the EU. However, business travelers are likely covered by their company’s insurance anyway.
Tip: Companies should check with their health and travel insurance providers for more coverage details in a no-deal scenario and whether they will need to purchase extra insurance for their travelers.
Will UK consumers be charged mobile phone roaming fees when traveling to EU countries?
UK consumers will still enjoy the surcharge-free roaming arrangement that was established throughout the EU in 2017, but if there is no deal in December, they could be charged roaming fees. That said, several mobile operators have stated they have no current plans to change their approach to mobile roaming when the UK leaves the EU.
Tip: Companies sending UK-based employees to EU countries should speak to their mobile providers about fees that may be incurred and the options they have in a post-Brexit world.
What are we doing to prepare for a no-deal Brexit?
American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) continues to assess all potential implications so we will be ready for whichever scenario unfolds. Based on our experience of managing travel disruption around the world every day, we are confident the resources and experience are in place to provide the best possible traveler care in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Though it is too early to forecast the level of potential disruption, we have created plans that may be put in place quickly to adjust the scale of our travel counselor operations based on anticipated demand. This is a standard part of our daily operational planning.
Tip: Don’t be shy! If you wish to learn more about how we are preparing for Brexit and/or how it may impact your travel program, please reach out to your client manager or connect with us via our “Contact” page.