Great Britain and Europe flags

Latest Brexit travel updates

We’re aware that many of our customers will have travel bookings for the winter holiday season and beyond and will be concerned about how Brexit may affect their travel plans. Please keep an eye on the Columbus website and blog for further updates on Brexit.

We will be updating this page with the latest information if any of the details below change.

Will Brexit affect my flights?

The government has released updated advice for UK travellers who will be visiting Europe after 11pm on 31st January 2020.

The terms of the withdrawal agreement mean that most aspects of travel around Europe will remain mostly unchanged during a transition period, but this will end next year on 1st January 2021.

This means that flights will stay unaffected after 31 January 2020, but it is not yet clear what will happen beyond the transition period. The European Commission and the British Government have issued reassurances that flights will be permitted to operate between EU countries and the UK, even if there was a no deal Brexit.

This is part of a ‘no deal’ contingency action plan on the part of the European Commission, which has the aim of mitigating areas of potential disruption as far as possible – including air travel, climate and customs regulations, amongst others. However, this does not replace current EU regulations like-for-like, and so does not guarantee the smooth continuation of flights.

If you want clarification of whether your flights will be affected, it is worth speaking to your airline or holiday provider.

How will travel to Europe change?

From 1st January 2021 you may need to do several checks to ensure that you don’t face any problems when travelling within the EU. This includes checking if your passport needs renewing, as you’ll likely need to have at least 6 months remaining on it and be less than 10 years old. Otherwise, you could face difficulties getting into some countries.

new passport can take around three weeks to arrive, but there is an alternative service if you need it more urgently. Currently, you can expect to pay £75.50 for a passport if you apply online, and £85 if you complete a paper form.

If you plan to stay in an EU country for longer than 90 days within a 180-day period, then you may require a visa or permit to stay there.

Pet travel is also set to take longer, as the current pet passport scheme will not be valid from 1st January 2021, and you will instead need to follow a new process which takes around 4 months.

It remains unclear if any measures will be put in place by the UK government to replace the current EU Air Passenger Regulations which protect travellers in the event their flight is delayed or cancelled, or if you’re downgraded or bumped from a flight due to overbooking. Under these regulations, you currently have certain rights when you fly which can be viewed on the Civil Aviation Authority website.

Will the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) still be valid? 

If the UK leaves the EU with no deal in place, your EHIC will no longer be valid. The UK government is keen to keep the EHIC in force if a Brexit agreement can be reached.

The European Health Insurance Card currently offers UK residents free or reduced-cost state-provided medical care across EEA countries and Switzerland (i.e. all the countries within the EU, plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein).

Effectively, it provides you with medical treatment on the same basis as a resident of the country you are in. Not all countries within the EEA and Switzerland have healthcare that’s free at the point of use – so even with EHIC you may still have to pay for certain treatments or services.

Which is where your travel insurance policy steps in. In fact, the British government advise all travellers that the EHIC does not replace the need for a travel insurance policy – they go on to advise that UK residents travelling to Europe should make sure they carry both. So whether we leave the EU with a deal in place or not, travel insurance is still a must whenever you travel to Europe.

And it becomes even more important if the EHIC becomes invalid – UK holidaymakers will no longer have access to subsided medical care while they are on holiday, meaning they are at risk of hefty medical bills if they fall ill or have an accident abroad.


- The UK has similar reciprocal health agreement deals with Australia and New Zealand which do not require an EHIC card and which will remain unaffected by Brexit.

- If you use a reciprocal health agreement such as the EHIC or Medicare in Australia to reduce the cost of your medical treatment abroad, Columbus Direct will waive any excess applicable on your medical claim (helping you with claims for smaller amounts). 

EU flag outside Downing Street in London

Will mobile data roaming be affected by Brexit?

Free data roaming has been present across the EU since June 2017 and means that UK travellers don’t face any extra fees for using their minutes, texts or data while abroad.

The guarantee of free roaming throughout the EU could end from 1 January 2021.

If the UK doesn’t come to an agreement then there would be no restrictions in place to prevent roaming charges inside Europe, although many mobile providers have said that they have no plans to change their policies. There is also a new law in place that protects you from mobile data charges above £45, so you now have to choose to opt in to receive more data beyond that limit.

How will driving in Europe change? 

One of the main changes that UK drivers could face when travelling to the EU is the need for more documentation. You will still require your UK driving licence to drive in EU and EEA countries, but you will also need an International Driving Permit (IDPs). There are three different types of IDPs, and the one you need will depend on which countries you plan to drive in.

You would also need to carry a motor insurance green card, which you would be able to get by contacting your vehicle insurance provider around one month before you travel.

If you are taking your car abroad with you, then you will need to display a GB sticker on the rear of the vehicle, even if your number plate already has the GB identifier.