Travel after Brexit: Everything you need to know


Utterly confused about what Brexit will mean for business travel? Don’t worry – we’re here to help. Read on to find out what business travelers can expect when the ink finally dries on one of history’s biggest divorces.

Confused about what Brexit will mean for your travels? You aren't alone. Image credit: Circle Creative Studio/iStock
Confused about what Brexit will mean for your travels? You aren’t alone. Image credit: Circle Creative Studio/iStock

At the time of writing, 31st October 2019 is the next deadline for Brexit to begin – but uncertainty continues to loom large.

Visiting the UK from non-EU destinations 

It’s rare to read anything overly positive when it comes to Brexit – but for visitors to the UK traveling from outside the EU, there is some. At present, it looks like there should be no changes to your travel after Brexit. As usual, you may need a visa to visit, but it should be business as usual as long as you’ve got your paperwork ready, with no new rules to worry about.

In fact, from June 2019, visitors from the U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore can begin using e-passport gates at UK terminals – and may not have to worry about landing cards as these are gradually being phased out. That means less queueing, less hassle, and an even smoother arrival. 

Find out whether you need a visa to visit the UK here.

EU to UK and UK to EU travel

When it comes to traveling to the EU from the UK or to the UK from the EU, it’s no surprise many of the meaningful answers hinge on the withdrawal agreement between both sides, and whether MPs in the UK eventually accept it. 

Scenario 1: It’s a deal

The current withdrawal agreement has been voted down three times in British parliament and the EU has stated repeatedly that it won’t reopen negotiations on a new deal. As such, many feel it’s dead in the water.

However, if a deal is reached, it may reduce some of the uncertainty around travel and keep existing arrangements firmly in place. 

The good news

If a satisfactory deal is reached, both British and EU citizens will have a bit more breathing room – no changes would be expected for traveling to the EU or UK until 2021, at the earliest. That means free movement between EU countries will continue for the time being, and you won’t need to worry about visas if you’re an EU citizen planning a short stay.

So at least for 2020, you probably won’t need to drastically assess your travel options. 

Flights

Flying continues to be the backbone of much business travel, and thankfully both the UK and EU are committed to minimal disruption.

With a deal on the table, business travelers from both the EU and UK would still enjoy visa-free travel with their passport or ID card when flying between nations, up to the end of 2020 (known as the transition period). After this, European Travel Information and Authorization System  (ETIAS) visa waivers would become a reality (see below).

The nitty-gritty of airport security and queueing is harder to predict. But guidance published early in 2019 emphasized there should be no significant changes, with the EU stating it would continue to recognize UK passengers and baggage under its current rules.

Both the EU and the British government are committed to keeping things as simple as possible when it comes to flying, so it is likely that business travel in Europe won’t be suddenly grounded – even in the event of a no-deal.

Flights should remain uninterrupted. Image credit: undrey/iStock
Both the EU and UK are committed to minimal disruptions to flights. Image credit: undrey/iStock

Train, bus, or boat

According to the UK government’s official guidance, most other methods of travel to the EU will remain unaffected, even if there’s a no-deal scenario.

This means traveling by Eurostar and Eurotunnel, on bus and coach services, and on ferries or cruises should be uninhibited, which is great news if you’re stopping over in Paris, Amsterdam, or Brussels for a business trip. Eurostar has also confirmed that it expects to continue services as usual post-Brexit, citing a “robust plan” to deal with any outcome.

As ever, the devil will be in the details. If you’re traveling to the EU or UK by train, bus or boat, we recommend keeping an eye on the latest news as Brexit gears up. 

Scenario 2: No deal

In the event of a no-deal scenario – in which the UK crashes out of the EU without a withdrawal agreement – the outcome for travelers is likely to be a mixed bag.

However, there are some cast-iron certainties around specific rights and travel for EU citizens traveling to the UK and vice versa. 

The bad news

From 2021, business travelers going from the UK to the EU, or the EU to the UK, would need to complete the online ETIAS application form and pay a small fee. This extra step is effectively a visa waiver and could mark one of the first real changes to travel we would see as a result of Brexit. 

With a no-deal Brexit,  the UK would be classified as a “third country” by the EU. This would be based on a system of reciprocity, meaning UK and EU citizens would retain their freedom for short-term visits, even as politicians speak of the end of free movement.  

As a result, visitors traveling in either direction should be OK without a visa for 90 days – but would need ETIAS approval.

In practice, both the UK and the EU need business to continue unimpeded. London, in particular, is a global leading city and very much intends to stay one, whatever the political weather. Therefore we can rest easy knowing any bumps in the road ahead would be carefully controlled – it’s in everyone’s best interest, after all.

Passports for UK citizens and travel to Ireland

One other no-deal detail which has raised hackles in the UK is passports. Before traveling, people with a British passport would need to make sure it’s less than 10 years old and valid for at least 6 months after their date of travel. This would come into force from 31st October 2019. The government has set up an online passport checker tool to help people.

Be mindful of your passport's expiry date. Image credit: James Dale/iStock
Be mindful of your passport’s expiry date. Image credit: James Dale/iStock

If you have an Irish passport you won’t have to worry about this – you can continue using it right up to the end date.

More broadly, it looks like travel between Northern Ireland (legally part of the UK) and the Republic of Ireland (a separate nation) would continue as normal, despite worries about the backstop. Many have pointed out that the Common Travel Area arrangement has guaranteed smooth passage between both jurisdictions for decades, and politicians on all sides are dedicated to keeping things that way. 

However, as with anything Brexit, assumptions aren’t recommended. If you are traveling between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, or vice versa, check the latest travel information before you do so.

Business exporting 

Taking products abroad with you to sell? You may need to make a customs declaration after Brexit. If the UK leaves without a deal,  British travelers will have to follow the same rules as other non-EU countries when moving goods.

If you’re transporting a cash sum of 10,000 pounds or more, you’ll also need to declare it.   

Sadly, one detail which may affect your business expenses is mobile data. While the EU only brought in it’s “free” mobile roaming in 2017, Brexit could mean business travelers from the UK face fees once more. The current advice is to check your network’s policy, whether there’s a deal or not.

Overall, it’s still tricky to pinpoint the precise details of how Brexit will affect doing business abroad. We recommend taking the time to consider what your business needs are and keeping a close eye on the UK government’s official guidance. 

For better or worse, business travelers will need to adapt to Brexit – the good news, however, seems to be that it’ll be business as usual for many of your current travel arrangements. 

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nick Hagan

Nick Hagan is a freelance writer based in London and Oxford, UK. He writes about culture, travel, food and drink and just about everything in-between, and is fueled by coffee, music and re-runs of "Agatha Christie's Poirot".