EU or non-EU? Which passport queue should Brits use after Brexit?

Brexit might have become reality, but Brits shouldn't experience any changes to travel within the EU until the end of the year. Although don't be surprised if officials, perhaps unwittingly try to usher you into the wrong passport queue.

EU or non-EU? Which passport queue should Brits use after Brexit?
Photo: AFP

At midnight on January 31st, the UK entered the so-called “transition period”, during which negotiations on post-Brexit deals are set to take place.

That period lasts until December 31st 2020, unless it is extended on agreement by both Brussels and London.

But until then, British citizens still benefit from freedom of movement within the EU.

So while Brits may no longer be EU citizens they are still treated as such when it comes to travelling in and out of the EU.

That means joining the queue for EU citizens at airports, ports and railway stations.

But don't be surprised if you run into some difficulty with officials who aren't aware of the rules.

One British resident of Sweden reported his experience of using his UK passport at Stockholm's Arlanda airport early on Sunday morning, just over a day after the UK officially left the EU.

He was told he should join the non-EU passport queue, and added that the official he spoke to was unaware of the transition period.

At airports, Brits should use the EU passport queue rather than the non-EU or 'all passports queue'. A press officer at Swedavia, which runs Sweden's larger airports, confirmed this to The Local.

While travelling within the EU, there will be no roaming charges on mobile phones and there are also no changes to driving rules (in other words, a British licence is valid in the EU and vice versa, with no requirement for an international driving permit).

As for what happens after December 31st 2020, that seems to depend on what is agreed between London and Brussels during the 11-month transition period.

Although the British government's website suggest the rules “will” change from January 1st 2021 and that includes which queue Britons are supposed to join.

The government's advice website for travel after January 1st 2021 reads “Border control: you may have to show your return ticket and money”

“At border control, you may need to show a return or onward ticket, show you have enough money for your stay or use separate lanes from EUEEA and Swiss citizens when queueing”.

The government also notes that the “guarantee of free mobile roaming may end”. 





Member comments

  1. Nobody seems to know the answer. I Brit and my wife French visit our daughters in the uk a few times a year. We will obviously be in the same (French registered) car. Which lane should we join in Calais and Dover? I am quite sure we are not the only couple in this situation and after 47 years marriage never expected this.

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Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

After years of campaigns and promises British citizens living abroad finally won the lifelong right to vote in UK general elections in April 2022. But campaigners say more needs to be done to allow all those Britons abroad to be able cast their votes easily.

Brits in Europe won right to vote for life in UK but questions remain

What’s in the law?

The Elections Act 2022 introduced several changes to the current legislation on electoral participation. Among these, it removed the rule by which British citizens lose their voting rights in the UK if they have lived abroad for more than 15 years

The new rules also abolished the requirement to have been previously registered in the UK electoral roll to become an overseas voter. In addition, the registration in the electoral roll will now last up to three years instead of only one year.

It is estimated that these changes could increase the number of overseas voter registrations by some 3 million. But the way new measures will be applied in practice is still to be defined.

READ ALSO: ‘Mixed feelings’ – British citizens in Europe finally get right to vote for life

Defining the practicalities

Under the new law, Britons living abroad will have to register to vote in the last place they were registered in the UK. This means that people who have never lived in the UK will be ineligible to vote, regardless of how long they have been overseas, while those who left when they were children will be able to use a parent or guardian’s address.

But given that the UK does not require residents to register with local councils, how to prove previous UK residence? “Typical documents accepted as a proof of residence are Council tax or utilities bills, but not everyone will have them or will have kept them in an international move,” says Fiona Godfrey, co-founder of the British in Europe coalition.

Ballot papers are pictured in stacks in a count centre as part of the 2019 UK general election. (Photo by ANDY BUCHANAN / AFP)

Other questions concern how people will effectively cast their ballot. UK citizens overseas will be able to vote by post or by proxy or in person at their polling station if they are in the UK at the time of the election. However, few people are likely to travel to the UK for an election and in the past there have problems and delays with postal voting.

The Electoral Commission has recommended that overseas electors appoint a proxy to vote on their behalf. But who could that be for people who have been away from their constituency for a long time?

New secondary legislation will have to answer these questions, defining how to be included in the electoral roll and how to exercise the voting right in practice.

According to British in Europe, the government should present draft legislation in the first half of the year so that the parliament can adopt it before summer and registrations of overseas voters can start in the autumn.

British in Europe survey

British in Europe are currently running a survey to understand the difficulties UK citizens abroad may face in the registration and voting process, as well as their intention to participate in elections.

The survey asks for instance which documents people can access to prove their previous residence in the UK, what problems they had voting in the past, and if and how they plan to vote in the future.

“We need to get an up-to-date picture of British citizens living around the world and have information to make recommendations to the government, as it prepares secondary legislation,” Godfrey said. “If millions of people will exercise their voting rights, there will be consequences for council registration offices, post office and authorities that will manage the process, among other things” she argued.

The right to vote concerns only UK parliamentary elections and national referendums, not elections in the devolved administrations of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, or at local level.

The survey is open to UK citizens living anywhere in the world and is available at this link.