Note: This Atlas post was published in March 2019 and contains some out-of-date information.
It’s all coming down to the wire and there are still many questions. With ten days to go before the United Kingdom is scheduled to leave the European Union and no consensus on how to do it, British parliamentarians voted not only to delay the exit process but also not to leave the EU without an agreement in place at any date.
In order for this to happen, though, all 27 of the remaining EU countries will need to back this option as well.
With this new development, it’s unlikely that the UK will crash out of the EU come 29 March. However, to help our clients and their travellers prepare for this rare scenario, here’s a guide on some travel-related changes to expect if the UK does leave the EU without a deal or delay next week.
There’s no need to panic. The UK government reassures travellers that airlines based in EU countries still will be able to operate in the UK and flights will be running on 30 March, even if there’s no deal or extension. According to a statement released by the Department of Transport and Civil Aviation Authority, there are detailed contingency plans confirming protection for flights in a no-deal scenario.
The European Parliament also just confirmed its own no-deal measures for flights that will allow UK airlines to fly to and from Europe.
“Measures put forward by the UK and the EU will ensure that flights can continue in any scenario, deal or no deal,” said UK Aviation Minister Baroness Sugg. “This is good news, not only for the industry but most importantly it reaffirms the fact that passengers can book flights with confidence, as normal.”
But just to be on the safe side and provide a smoother journey for your travellers, we encourage American Express Global Business Travel (GBT) clients to sign up for Proactive Traveler CareÔ, a service that automatically monitors for flight delays and cancellations and reaches out to impacted travellers to offer rebooking assistance.
First the good news: Most British citizens in possession of a passport that has at least six months’ validity will not need to renew their passport at this point to travel to EU and European Economic Area (EEA) (i.e., Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) countries and Switzerland.
Now the bad news: In the unlikely event of no Brexit deal, it no longer will be acceptable for Britons to simply have a passport that’s valid for the length of their stay. Unless the Brexit process is delayed, the six-month validity rule will go into effect after 29 March. This means British citizens who have a passport that expires in less than six months or have one that is older than nine years and six months will have to renew earlier than expected.
If you are uncertain of your status, use this tool to quickly calculate whether you will need to renew your passport before your trip.
As for EU nationals travelling to the UK, they simply will need to present a passport or identity card that’s valid for the length of their stay.
Visas and authorisation
In the event of no deal, the European Commission plans to grant UK citizens visa-free status, allowing Britons to stay in EU countries for up to 90 days over a 180-day period.
The British government also has declared its intention not to require a visa from EU nationals for temporary stays.
Deal or no deal, if and when the UK leaves the EU, Britons will need to obtain a European Travel Information Authorisation System (ETIAS) visa waiver, a new European initiative designed to strengthen the EU’s external borders, to enter the EU, starting January 2021.
The process will entail filling out an online application and paying a €7 fee. Once granted, the authorisation will be valid for three years.
If there’s no Brexit agreement, Britons can no longer rely on just their UK-issued driver’s licence when behind the wheel of a car in EU and EEA countries. Legally, they will need an international driving permit (IDP) that only may be obtained in person at a UK post office. The exception to this rule: UK motorists can use their regular license when driving in Ireland.
Drivers of UK-registered vehicles also will need to carry a green card that provides evidence of motor insurance coverage when driving in the EU. This can be obtained from your motor insurer.
Since it’s unclear at this point what will happen come 29 March, UK nationals who are departing to the EU before that date and due back after 29 March and who are planning to drive while abroad should prepare in advance and have all this paperwork with them during their travels, just to be prepared for any circumstance.
It should be noted that EU citizens will not need an IDP to drive in the United Kingdom — just their regular driver’s licence. Those whose vehicles are insured in an EU or EEA country will have to carry a motor insurance green card with them.
Want to know a way you can avoid this hassle altogether? Forgo driving and use our newly launched Ground Transportation platform to book yourself a ride!