Updated with new information 12th September 2021.
Please note that Brexit is a developing situation. While every effort is made to ensure that the information is correct at the time of writing, please double-check before you travel.
Britain left the E.U. on 31st January 2020 and entered a transition period which ended on 31st December 2020. How Brexit would impact European travel for all British Nationals was unclear until the very last minute. Here is an update on the main issues.
1. Your Rights to Travel to the EU after Brexit
Post Brexit, you can still travel to the EU, but not as easily & not for as long.
From 1st January 2021, without a visa, UK Nationals can only spend a maximum 90 days in every rolling 180-day period in all 26 Schengen countries. There are also differences in passport requirements and additional border checks.
- Schengen & Penalties for Overstaying
- Visa Free Travel in Schengen – The EU has agreed to that UK Nationals can enjoy visa-free travel for short stays in the Schengen Area (maximum 90 days in every rolling 180-day period).
- Restrictions Do Not Apply to Individual Countries – the limit appies to all 26 countries which comprise the Schengen Area.
- Non-EU Countries in Schengen – time spent in Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein counts towards your 90-day allowance, since although they are not in the EU, these countries are in Schengen.
- Part days count towards your allowance. Thus, if you enter Schengen at one minute to midnight and leave at one minute past midnight, that will count as two of your 90 days.
- Departure is when the clock starts towards your allowance, so if you board a ferry in the UK to Santander, that is Day 1.
- The clock does not re-set with the calendar year. Your entitlement is 90 days in a rolling 180 day period.
- Schengen Calculator – This Schengen Calculator will help to work it out.
- Penalties for overstaying in Schengen are harsh, although the punishment and rigour with which it is enforced depends on the particular country where you are caught. It will also depend on the severity of the offence. It will be more if you overstay for a long period or are caught working or engaging in illegal activities. Penalties can include;
- Fine – the levy depends on where you were caught and the seriousness of the offence. €700 is the figure often quoted, but it could be much more.
- Blacklist – a note on your personal record, which will make it difficult for you to re-enter Schengen. (Note that from February 2020 those who have lawfully used their Schengen visas will be treated more favourably.)
- Ban – you may be banned from entering Schengen for several years – or forever for the worst offenders.
- Deportation – is always accompanied by another penalty and may result in your passport being stamped with ‘illegal immigrant’. This could affect your ability to enter other non-Schengen countries.
- Long Stay Visas – A tourist, work or study visa may be available for stays longer than 90 days in some countries. My understanding is that the visa application must be made in your home country to the embassy or consulate of the main country that you intend to visit. This will allow you a longer stay in the country for which you have a visa, but the 90/180 rule applies in the rest of Schengen. How to Apply for a Schengen Visa.
- The Schengen Shuffle by the Motoroamers is a detailed look at how to stay on the right side of the Schengen rules for an extended trip.
- IGNORE THE EXPIRY DATE! The passport office used to add unexpired time from previous passports on to the ten year validity, which is no longer acceptable with the UK outside the EU. To travel to Europe, your passport must be fewer than ten years old and have at least six months validity left. So check that fewer than 9 years and 6 months have elapsed since the DATE OF ISSUE. Click here for the GOV.uk passport checker tool to ensure your documents are valid for travel.
- Your passport will need to be stamped on entry and exit to monitor the length of time you have spent in the EU.
- Border Checks
- You will need to use the ‘other countries’ lane.
- You may be asked about the duration and purpose of your stay, need to show an onward or return ticket and demonstrate that you have money to support yourself.
- Your luggage may be checked by customs.
- Duty free allowance restrictions.
- 4 litres of spirits or 9 litres of sparkling/fortified wine,
- 18 litres of still wine and
- 16 litres of beer
- 200 cigarettes
- Empty your fridge – to prevent the spread of animal diseases, there are limits or bans on the import of certain food products, such as meat and dairy. The ban also applies to baby and pet food, unless required for medical reasons.
- ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation Scheme)
- From 2021, you may need this new document to travel to Europe.
- Current cost is approximately €7 and it is valid for 3 years.
2. Driving in Europe Post Brexit
A. Driving Licence, Stickers & International Driving Permits (IDPs)
- Your UK driving licence remains valid with a few exceptions:
- You must have a photocard licence, not a paper one.
- Licences issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man are not valid.
- Click here to see if you need an IDP.
- You will need a UK (NOT GB) sticker. Click here for the GOV guidelines.
- If you need an IDP
- IDPs cost £5.50 and can be bought over the counter from many Post Offices.
- There are three different sorts of IDP depending on which countries you plan to visit, so please check you get the right one(s) – if you drive from one IDP jurisdiction to another, you will need both or all three.
- 1949 IDP (Andorra, Cyprus)
- 1926 IDP (Lichtenstein)
- 1968 Convention IDP (Other EU Countries that require an IDP)
B. Green Card
On 2nd August 2021, in a selection of measures to ease the tension with the Northern Irealnd Protocol, the post Brexit requirement for UK registered vehicles to carry an insurance green card was dropped. This will be particularly helpful for Northern Irish motorists crossing the border into Ireland.
C. If You Carry A Motorcycle, Get an ATA Carnet
Freedom of movement of motorsports vehicles also ended with the end of the Brexit transition period. In order to save time clearing customs and avoid custom charges, apply for an Admission Temporaire or Temporary Admission (ATA) Carnet before you travel. The ATA Carnet is like a temporary international passport for your goods and is valid for a year. It allows the temporary importation of goods into countries that are part of the ATA Carnet system, which includes the EU and forty or so additional countries.
D. Replace GB Sticker & Numberplates with UK
From 28th September 2021 the UK’s distinguishing sign is ‘UK’ not ‘GB’, so stickers and numberplates on cars registered in the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland will need to be replaced to reflect this in order to drive on foreign roads. The stickers are available in Post Offices, garages and here from Amazon UK. For more information, check out this article from the RAC.
3. EHIC European Health Insurance Card
- Your EHIC card will remain valid until its expiry date.
- The EHIC guarantees European citizens entitlement to the same health care as a local when visiting a member state. Note that this is NOT the same health care as you would get in the UK. Ambulances may not be included, the local hospitals can be very basic and the treatment may not be free.
- EHIC has never been a substitute for a comprehensive travel insurance policy, since it does not cover all medical costs or flying you home in case of emergency.
- In the UK, the Global Health Insurance Card (the GHIC) will replace the EHIC. Although you can apply online here if your EHIC has run out, the website states, “the latest government advice is to make sure healthcare is included in your private foreign travel insurance, as details of how to apply for the GHIC card haven’t yet been released.”
4. Roaming/Data Charges
- From 1st January 2021, European law covering mobile data and calls ends, which leaves European operators free to make their own prices for UK mobiles used overseas.
- Many of the major mobile providers – including EE, O2, Three, Tesco and Vodafone – said they would keep their European mobile prices in line with UK prices, however this is not the case and most have now re-introduced roaming charges and reduced their allowances for usage abroad. To avoid large, unexpected bills, it will pay to check your contract before you travel.
- In November 2020, we took out an unlimited UK data package which offered 20GB abroad with Vodaphone. We had a dispute with them, since they then advises that we are only allowed to use our allowance abroad for 2 months in every 4, or be subject to crippling data charges. We were aware of others on the same contract who had retained their benefits because they had already used their data allowance abroad. After a battle, Vodaphone cancelled the contract with no charge.
5. Travelling with Pets
From 1st January 2021, EU Pet Passports issued in the UK are no longer valid. For the latest on pet travel, see IMPORTANT POST BREXIT PET TRAVEL UPDATE and Animal Health Certificates – What You Need To Know.
6. Taking Food Into The EU – Empty Your Fridge
As mentioned above, post-Brexit restrictions on imports means that many everyday food products, such as meat, meat products, milk, dairy products, fresh fruit, vegetables, honey and plants can no longer be taken from the UK into the EU, except in small quantities for medical reasons. Details are on the Government website and laid out on the DEFRA pdf below.
There is no doubt that Brexit will have a huge impact on our travelling lifestyle. The limits to the length of time that we can spend in the Schengen Area (3 months in every 6 month period) will affect our travel planning. The costs and ease of travelling with our four dogs has certainly changed for the worse.
However, we strongly believe that there is always a solution.
- Long Stay Tourist Visa – at the time of writing, it looks like France will offer a long-stay tourist visa. Considering the importance of long-term tourism to countries such as Spain, other countries may follow suit.
- Visit Non-Schengen Countries – we can pop in and out of the Schengen Area so that we don’t overstay our EU welcome. Although committed to join Schengen, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania are not yet members, so are an option for your 90 days out of Schengen. Morocco and Algeria are also very accessible from Spain.
- EU Pet Passports – to avoid the hassle and expense of Animal Health Certificates every four months, we have put our pups on French EU passports, although since Brexit, France has become more stringent on issuing pet passports.
- Our Brexit Busting Plan summarises it all.
- Detailed Brexit Advice – from cross-border divorce to consumer rights, the UK Government’s guidance to life outside the EU.
- Visit Europe from 1 January 2021 – advice from Gov.uk
Image credits – Pixabay