No-deal Brexit: Brits travelling to Europe ‘to face passport problems and soaring mobile bills’

The British government was set to release more risk assessment papers on Thursday warning its citizens of future headaches with driving licences, passports and mobile phone bills if Britain crashes out of the EU without a deal.

No-deal Brexit: Brits travelling to Europe 'to face passport problems and soaring mobile bills'
Photo: AFP

The reports are part of a series of so-called impact papers or risk assessments produced by the British government to prepare its citizens for likely scenarios if the UK crashed out of the EU without a deal.

Last month the British government released a list of 25 'technical notices' revealing that Brits living in the European Union could lose access to their UK bank accounts and would face higher credit card charges in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

New papers will be published Thursday that touch on the subjects of driving licences, mobile phone bills and passports.

The papers are due to be released officially after British PM Theresa May chairs a special cabinet meeting on what to do in the event of a no-deal.

But the notices are expected to warn that the mutual recognition of EU driving licences would automatically end if Britain leaves the EU without an agreement.

That scenario would clearly create headaches for Brits living in France who use their British driving licenses as well as the thousands of tourists and lorry drivers who cross the Channel each day.

When it comes to passports the government is expected to warn that after Brexit unless a deal is thrashed out then EU countries may not allow British citizens to enter their countries if they have less than six months left on their passport before it expires.

Up until now this has not been an issue.

And as many have also predicted the government is warning that mobile phone roaming charges for Brits who travel to the EU could soar from March 2019 if there's a no-deal Brexit.

The question of what will happen with roaming charges even if there is a deal between London and Brussels is still unclear. Under the draft withdrawal agreement EU regulations, which currently limit roaming charges, would apply to the end of the transition period in December 2020.

But in March 2018, Prime Minister Theresa May said that after Brexit the UK will not be part of the EU's Digital Single Market, which will continue to develop after our withdrawal from the EU.

That means that the European regulation that bans roaming charges will not automatically be part of UK law, so British mobile operators might be able to reintroduce the charges. But all may depend on what is included in any deal struck between London and Brussels over their future relationship after Brexit.

Brexiteers say the risk assessments are scaremongering on the part of the British government but Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab has said he believes the impact papers are “part of our sensible, pragmatic approach to preparing for all outcomes.”

Speaking ahead of the publications Raab said: ‘With six months to go until the UK leaves the European Union, we are stepping up our ‘no deal’ preparations so that Britain can continue to flourish, regardless of the outcome of negotiations.

He added that “getting a deal with the EU is still by far and away the most likely outcome.”

The release of the papers is also believed to be tactical on the British government's part as they attempt to show Brussels that they are seriously preparing for a no-deal Brexit in order to strengthen its negotiating hand with Brussels as negotiations reach a critical point over the coming weeks.

More impact papers are set to be published in the coming weeks.


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Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don’t want to return home

The majority of Britons who live in the EU, Norway, Iceland or Switzerland and are protected under the Brexit agreement feel European and intend to remain in Europe permanently, but many have concerns about travel problems, a new survey reveals.

Brexit: Brits in EU feel European and don't want to return home

The research also shows that problems exist and “travel is where most issues relating to the new status currently occur”. For instance, border officials are still stamping passports of UK citizens with residence rights under the EU UK withdrawal agreement, even though they shouldn’t.

“There is constant confusion around passport stamping. I was ‘stamped in’ to France on a short trip… but could not find anyway to be ‘stamped out’ again. I think I can only spend 90 days in other EU countries, but have no idea how anyone can check or enforce that – until someone decides to try. It’s a mess,” was one of the answers left in an open question.

“Every time I go through a Schengen border control, I need to provide both my passport and Aufenthaltstitel card [resident permit in Germany] and watch to check that they don’t stamp my passport. As I am currently travelling a lot that’s been 20-odd times this year…” another respondent said.

The survey was carried out by Professor Tanja Bueltmann, historian of migration and diaspora at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, between October and November 2022. About 1,139 UK citizens replied.

Of these, 80 per cent found acquiring their new status easy or very easy, 60.7 per cent feel their rights are secure, while 39.3 per cent have concerns about their status going forward.

Staying permanently

More than three quarters (76.6 per cent) of respondents said they plan to live permanently in the EU or the other countries of the European Economic Area and Switzerland. In fact, 65.7 per cent said that Brexit has increased the likelihood of this choice.

For some, the decision is linked to the difficulty to bring non-British family members to the UK under new, stricter immigration rules.

“My German wife and I decided we no longer wanted to live in UK post Brexit referendum. In particular, we were affected by the impact of immigration law […] We cannot now return to UK on retirement as I cannot sponsor her on my pension. We knew it was a one-way journey. Fortunately, I could revive an application for German citizenship,” was a testimony.

“My husband is a US citizen and getting him a visa for the UK was near impossible due to my low income as a freelance journalist. We realized under EU law, moving to an EU country was easier. We settled on Austria as we had both lived there before… we could speak some German, and we like the mountains,” said another respondent.

Professor Bueltmann noted that the loss of free movement rights in the EU could be a factor too in the decision of many to stay where they are.

Citizenship and representation

Among those who decided to stay, 38.2 per cent are either applying or planning to apply for a citizenship and 28.6 per cent are thinking about it.

A key finding of the research, Bueltmann said, is that the vast majority of British citizens do not feel politically represented. Some 60 per cent of respondents said they feel unrepresented and another 30 per cent not well represented.

Another issue is that less than half (47.5 per cent) trust the government of their country of residence, while a larger proportion (62 per cent) trust the European Union. Almost all (95.6 per cent) said they do not trust the UK government.

Feeling European

The survey highlights the Brexit impacts on people’s identity too. 82.6 per cent of respondents said they see themselves as European, a higher proportion than those identifying as British (68.9 per cent).

“Brexit has really left me unsure of what my identity is. I don’t feel British, and I certainly don’t identify with the mindset of a lot of British people who live there. Yet, I am not Danish either. So, I don’t really know anymore!” said one of the participants in the survey.

Professor Bueltmann said the survey “demonstrates that Brexit impacts continue to evolve: this didn’t just stop because the transition period was over or a deadline for an application had been reached. Consequently, Brexit continues to shape the lives and experiences of British citizens in the EU/EEA and Switzerland in substantial, sometimes life-altering, ways.”

Considering the results of the study, Professor Bueltmann recommends policy makers in the EU and the UK to address the issue of lack of representation, for instance creating a joint UK-EU citizens’ stakeholder forum.

The report also recommends the UK government to rebuild trust with British citizens in the EU introducing voting rights for life and changing immigration rules to allow British-European families to return more easily. 

This article was prepared in cooperation with Europe Street News.