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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?

In the event of a no-deal Brexit, both the European Commission and the British Government have issued reassurances that flights will be permitted to operate between EU countries and the UK

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.

The UK government has issued advice to travellers with holidays planned after 31st October, although the EU has now agreed to extend Brexit to 31 January 2020 and the page will be updated as more details are announced.

Will UK air passenger rights change after Brexit? 

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.

The regulations cover passengers travelling from or arriving in EU countries operated by any airline, or on flights elsewhere which are provided by EU carriers. Under these rules, passengers can expect to receive offers of alternative flights, refunds or in some cases compensation, if their flight is delayed or cancelled. The airline also has obligations regarding care and assistance – which for example could mean food at the airport or a hotel overnight, if needed.

If the UK leaves the EU with no deal in place, Schengen Border Code would be implemented (which covers travel to most EU countries). The Schengen border regulations stipulate that UK travellers, as third party nationals, will need to have three months’ validity left on their passports in order to travel. As UK residents would be entitled to stay up to three months in any Schengen country, the government is advising travellers to ensure they have at least 6 months left on their passport from date of arrival. Even if you only plan on laying on a beach for two weeks, we’d say this is a good guideline to go by. For example, if an accident or injury meant a lengthy stay in hospital abroad, a passport with longer validity period would be one less hurdle to overcome on the road to recovery.

A 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.

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 UK leaves the EU with no deal – 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 no deal?

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.

This could change if the UK leaves with no deal, although the UK government plans to negotiate free roaming during the transition period if a deal is agreed.

If the UK does face a no deal Brexit 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.

The UK government has revealed plans to introduce legislation that would see a financial cap of £45 be set, where customers would have to choose to opt in if they want to receive more data beyond that limit. 

How would driving in Europe change? 

One of the main changes for UK drivers 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.

What if a Brexit deal is agreed? 

The UK and EU have agreed that if a deal is ratified by both the UK and EU before 31st October, there will be a transition period between then and 31st December 2020, during which further details of the agreement can be negotiated. EU law would continue to apply during this Brexit transition period – so Air Passenger Regulations and the EHIC medical agreements would remain in place.

Now that an extension has been announced by the EU, it is not yet clear if the end of the transition period would change if a deal was agreed.

Boris Johnson has agreed a new deal with the EU, and a Withdrawal Agreement Bill was later passed in parliament by 329 votes to 299, but he then failed to get approval for a short timetable. 

When will Brexit happen and what is a no deal Brexit? 

The UK was set to leave the European Union at 23.00 GMT on Thursday 31 October 2019, but EU President Donald Tusk announced that another Brexit extension has been agreed that will instead see the UK leave the EU on 31 January 2020. Although it could be sooner if a deal is approved by parliament before that date.

If an extension hadn’t have been agreed then from 1 November the UK would have be treated as a third-party country by the EU and would follow World Trade Organization (WTO) tariffs and processes, until new trade agreements are made with individual countries.

The EHIC would also become invalid while other travel arrangements would be affected, as outlined above. UK residents could also see restrictions on food and medicine during the start of the process.

BBC News 10/10/19 – Will the EHIC be valid after Brexit?

Independent 01/10/19 – The consequences of a no-deal Brexit on travel

Evening Standard 17/10/2019 - Travel after Brexit: How leaving EU will affect your holiday

YourMoney 07/10/19 – What you need to know about post-Brexit travel

Which? 22/10/19 – Travel after Brexit: from passports to driving licences