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BREXIT: What Brits in Europe need to know about travel from January 2021

Here's a reminder to Britons living around Europe of some of the rules they will have to abide by when travelling after January 1st 2021.

BREXIT: What Brits in Europe need to know about travel from January 2021
AFP

The UK government has chosen to end freedom of movement for people from the EU and therefore its own citizens as a result so there will be changes to travel rules that will kick in on January 1st 2021.

These changes will impact certain things such as passport validity, border checks, EHIC cards and of course entry requirements.

First of all Covid-19

Most countries in Europe have now at least partially reopened their borders to travellers from the UK after the 'mutant Covid' scare, but some are limiting travel to essential trips only and most are insisting on Covid tests or quarantine for all arrivals from the UK – regardless of nationality, so check the situation in your destination if you are coming from the UK.

Secondly, at the end of the transition period Britain becomes a “third country” which means it will be subject to the EU's ban on non-essential travel to the bloc and Schengen area that was imposed back in March 2020 because of the pandemic.

That means tourists and visitors coming from the UK are not allowed to visit the EU from January onwards. Essential travel will be allowed so that means anyone resident in the EU can return home and family members of EU residents can travel. Exemptions are also made for those travelling for work reasons. More info here.

And now for Brexit…

Passports

Before December 31st British nationals could travel freely throughout Europe and only needed to make sure their passport was valid for the duration of their trip.

However the rules are stricter after January 1st.

“From January 1st 2021, you must have at least six months left on an adult or child passport to travel to most countries in Europe (not including Ireland),” the UK government says.

This requirement “does not apply if you are entering or transiting” your EU country of residence, however. So Britons returning to their homes in France, Spain, Germany etc in the New Year should be able to enter if they have less than six months validity on their passport.

“If you renewed your current passport before the previous one expired, extra months may have been added to its expiry date. Any extra months on your passport over 10 years may not count towards the 6 months needed,” the UK government says.

“You will need to renew your passport before travelling if you do not have enough time left on your passport,” the UK government says.

Border checks

After December 31st things might not be quite as smooth for Britons arriving at ports and airports around Europe. Until December 31st, British travellers can join the EU queue when arriving at borders but from January 1st they will likely have to join different lanes.

“As a non-EEA national, different border checks will apply when travelling to other EU or Schengen area countries. You may need to show a return or onward ticket and that you have enough money for your stay.

“You may also have to use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing. Your passport may be stamped for visits to these countries,” the UK government says.

Certain countries that receive large numbers of Brits like France, Spain or Portugal may make exceptions and allow UK travellers to join the EU queue.

However by law border officials are required to ask non-EU travellers extra questions, so don't be surprised if you are grilled a little on arrival.

The 90-day rule for entry

And of course with Britons stripped of the right to freedom of movement around the EU and the end to onward freedom of movement for Britons residents in Europe, the main impact will be on how long Britons can stay in an EU country.

There will be limits and Brits will likely need to apply for visas if they want to stay beyond those deadlines. 

“From January 1st 2021, you will be able to travel to other Schengen area countries for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa for purposes such as tourism. This is a rolling 180-day period,” says the UK government.

“To stay for longer, to work or study, or for business travel, you will need to meet the entry requirements set out by the country to which you are travelling. This could mean applying for a visa or work permit. You may also need to get a visa if your visit would take you over the 90 days in 180 days limit.

“Periods of stay authorised under a visa or permit will not count against the 90-day limit. Travel to the UK and the Ireland will not change.”

READ ALSO How will the 90-day rule work for British people after Brexit?

Most European countries are set to treat UK residents as third-country nationals, so like all other non-EU citizens, for the purposes of entry requirements unless new deals are struck.

The 90-day limit is for the whole European bloc, not 90 days per country.

It's unclear what kind of checks there will be on how long Britons stay in the EU, especially for those already resident here in the Schengen area and therefore are not subject to border checks.

So officially a British national living in France is subject to the same rules as a British resident of the UK when it comes to spending time at their second home in Spain, however they are unlikely to be subject to border checks.

The EU has a useful short-stay visa calculator here.`

British citizens can stay as long as they like in the Republic of Ireland.

Overstaying the 90-day rule

Those who breach the 90-day rule by staying longer could be subject to a fine and/or a ban from the Schengen area. Different countries impose different penalties and there is normally a three-day grace period.

British EHIC cards

Certain categories of people living in the EU (pensioners and students) can continue to use EHIC cards although they will likely have to apply for a new one.

The new one will be different from the old EHIC or new GHIC because they will show that the holder is covered by the “Citizens' Rights Agreement” (CRA).

UK health authorities have said previously that old EHIC cards were only valid until December 31st 2020 but it's not clear if there is now leeway given that old EHIC cards are now still valid until expiry date. Nevertheless pensioners living in the EU are advised to apply for a new one.

The link has more details in the latest on EHIC cards.

Anyone with a European Health Insurance card issued by their EU country of residence (which in France is known as a Carte europeenne assurance maladie or CEAM) can still use it for health cover when visiting other EU, EEA countries or Switzerland.

The UK government has told The Local that Britons living in the EU (who are not pensioners) before the end of the transition period that their locally issued EHIC card will be valid for any treatment they need while visiting the UK.

The UK government's site says: “If you live in the EU or move there before the end of 2020, your rights to access healthcare in your host country will stay the same from January 1st 2021 for as long as you remain resident.

Driving licences

UK residents living around Europe are officially obliged to exchange their British driving licences for one issued in their country of residence.

However different countries have different rules and the deadline for doing this depends on which country you live in, so it's worth seeking out info in the Brexit sections of our websites.

For example in France the deadline for exchanging driving licences is December 31st 2021.

For UK travellers to Europe the government says: “You might need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in some countries.”

“If you’re taking your own British vehicle, you will also need a ‘green card’ and a GB sticker,” the government says.

It is not clear however what the same advice would apply for a British resident of France driving in another EU country on a British licence.

Bringing goods into the UK

Previously there were no limits on the value of goods you could bring in to the UK from European Union nations unless you planned to sell them – to the delight of many Brits visiting the wine warehouses of northern France.

But from the start of 2020 there will be now restrictions on the amount you can bring into UK.

For alcohol, the limits are: 42 litres of beer,  4 litres of spirits or 9 litres of sparkling wine and 18 litres of still wine.

Arrivals to the UK will also qualify to bring in 200 duty-free cigarettes. 

If you exceed any of these limits, you will pay tax on the whole lot.

There is a limit of €430 – roughly £400 – for all other goods.

The government states: “The beer allowance of 42 litres will equate to three crates of 568ml (pint) cans. If passengers prefer to buy 330ml bottles of beer this would equate to five crates.”

For more information CLICK HERE.

Travel documents needed for British residents in EU

Britons around Europe are currently in the process of either applying for residency status or officially registering in their adopted EU countries to ensure they are covered by the Withdrawal Agreement and can make the most of the rights it protects.

But there are concerns about what documents some will need to prove their residency in the country if for example if, as for example will be the case in France, they won't be in possession of the official residency card by January 1st.

Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement Brits have until six months after the end of the transition period (so until July 2021) to apply for residency in those countries such as France and Germany where it will be required to do so.

However certain countries like Sweden and Austria have decided to extend the deadline to give more time to Britons to apply for residency.

READ ALSO: Q&A: What does Brexit mean for my rights as a Brit living in Germany?

In the absence of any clear rules on what documents Britons without a residency card will need, they are being advised to be prepared to carry various proofs of residency such as bills, work contracts, insurance documents etc as well as email confirmation of their application for residency.

Other things to note…

Pets…

British citizens travelling from the UK to the EU will have to take note of other changes from January 1st 2021.

For example from January 1st 2021 Britons travelling to the EU will not be able to use the existing pet passport scheme. Instead they'll need to follow a different process, for new paperwork. Follow the government guidance about pet travel to Europe from January 1st 2021.

Going from Europe to the UK is easier, because the UK has stated that for the moment it will continue to accept Pet Passports.

Your Pet Passport and microchip information will be checked at the border.

“If you have a pet passport issued by an EU member state, you can use it to bring your pet to Great Britain.

“You can also use it to return to the EU, as long as your pet has had a successful rabies antibody blood test,” the UK gov says. For more details on rabies tests CLICK HERE.

Phones…

And anyone using a British phone number after January 1st needs to be aware of roaming charges.

The guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway will end on December 31st.

Customers are advised to check with their phone operator to find out about any roaming charges.

 

Member comments

  1. Does anyone know what will happen to a Brit who is in France and who wants to take advantage of first 3 months of 90 day ruling without returning to UK. If they have all appropriate driving permits, health cover etc. The passport won’t be stamped to show arrival so is this a grey area? Has anything been said to indicate you should leave and return? I have searched and searched and can’t find information relating to this specific question. Thanks

  2. Can’t see any possible reason Vanessa why you can’t have your 90 days. If you’re visiting there now or up to Dec 31st that’s just part of your FOM, doesn’t matter. Then you can start your 90 days on Jan 1st.

    On another tack, there is a “To whom it may concern” letter from the British Embassy in Paris, in French, A Qui de Droit, for anyone claiming/going to claim French residency but not doing it yet /waiting for their card, to show if necessary up until October 1st, as proof that you don’t need to show a residency permit until then. So if you perhaps don’t get around to applying until June,say, you have this to show to anyone who asks, that it’s not required to show til Oct.
    .
    https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/927523/Informative_note_withdrawal_agreement_.pdf

  3. This article dated 1st January includes the statement:
    > All current EHIC cards become invalid on December 31st.

    My belief is that this is out of date and that the UK-issued
    EHIC will continue to be valid until its expiry date, when
    an application for a GHIC can be made.

    Please clarify and amend if necessary.

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For members

SPAIN AND THE UK

Liz Truss: What does the new UK PM mean for Brits in Spain?

Following the announcement that Liz Truss will replace Boris Johnson as the UK’s new Prime Minister, political correspondent Conor Faulkner analyses what this could mean for Brexit and the 400,000 UK nationals who reside in Spain.

Liz Truss: What does the new UK PM mean for Brits in Spain?

On Monday September 5th, it was announced that members of UK’s Conservative party had finally elected a new leader and thus a new Prime Minister, after Boris Johnson was forced to resign at the start of the summer.

Beating rival Rishi Sunak with 57 percent of the vote, just 80,000 Conservative party members elected the former Foreign Secretary as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland.

READ ALSO: ‘Iron weathercock’ – Europe reacts to Liz Truss becoming new UK PM

But what, if anything, does her election mean for Brexit and the 400,000 Britons living in Spain? 

Will she be a continuity politician or will she forge a new path (for better or worse) in British-European relations?

Truss the Remainer

During the 2016 EU referendum campaign, Liz Truss campaigned for Remain. “I don’t want my daughters to live in a world where they have to apply for a visa to work in Europe,” she famously said.

Having once been a member of the Liberal Democrats and decidedly more pro-European, Truss’s conversion to Euroscepticism came after she had voted Remain in the EU in the June 2016 referendum.

Did the much hallowed Brexit benefits become clear to her in the aftermath of the result? Possibly. Or, as Brexit became a litmus test of loyalty and Conservatism, did her position shift to fit the intra-party politics of her party?

Although one may hope that her former pro-European positions might mean a softening in UK-EU relations in the post-Johnson era, Truss’s dependence on the Eurosceptic wing of the Conservative parliamentary party during her leadership campaign suggests she may be kneecapped in her ability to strike compromises with the EU.

Truss the Foreign Secretary

Owing to Truss’s tendency to be a bit of a political flip-flopper and change her positions at the whim of career progression, it is therefore quite difficult to predict her future behaviour with regards to Spain. We can, however, make some educated guesses based on her time as Foreign Secretary.

Going off her tenure in the Foreign Office, it seems Truss may view relations with Spain more positively than perhaps with other EU member states or the block as a whole.

In December 2021, Truss travelled to Madrid to meet with her then counterpart José Manuel Albares to build “closer economic, tech and security ties” with Spain, and to “support” the 400,000 Britons living in Spain. 

“We’re significant trading partners, with the UK as Spain’s biggest European investor,” she said, “and the UK as the top destination for Spanish investment. By boosting our trading ties even further, both Spain and every region and nation of the UK will benefit.”

Yet, Truss has also strongly hinted that she would be willing to overhaul Article 16 and put the Northern Ireland protocol at risk. If she is willing to jeopardise peace and potentially break international law to appease her political base in England, particularly within her own parliamentary party, one must wonder about the seriousness with which a few hundred thousand Brits up and down Spain’s costas will be taken. 

Reaction in Spain

Spain’s leading newspaper El País believes Truss will continue the populist strategy of Johnson. Truss was, even in her acceptance speech on Monday, loyal to her predecessor. 

She “promises citizens a rose-tinted future, without clarifying how she intends to achieve it”, the paper believes.

Sue Wilson, Chair of Bremain in Spain, told The Local that she expects Truss to “carry on with the policies of Johnson, and be led, presumably, by the same right-wing forces of the Conservative Party.

“I suspect that, as far as what affects British citizens in Spain, that continuity will simply mean we remain invisible and left to our own devices,” Wilson added.

“Britons in Spain have been left in bureaucratic limbo since the Brexit vote six years ago. Whether it be the ongoing confusion over driving licenses or renewing residency or getting new TIE cards, many Britons abroad have felt abandoned by the UK government.”

Wilson and other members of Bremain in Spain will take part in the National Rejoin March in London on Saturday September 10th to “deliver a warning to the new PM about the impact of Brexit on the spiralling cost of living crisis in the UK”,  to express a “clear and loud message” that “Brexit has failed” and to promote “Rejoin the EU” as a “mainstream” call to action.

“For six years now, Brits living in Europe have been dealing with fear, uncertainty and stress, thanks to Brexit. We have already lost important rights, and many are concerned that even those secured could be at risk. Truss plans to proceed with the Protocol Bill which threatens the legally binding international treaty that secured those limited rights. In the process, she seems determined to do further damage to UK/EU relations and our international reputation.”

Anne Hernández, head of Brexpats in Spain, told The Local Spain: “Our problem as Brits in Spain might be if she actually applies Article 16, meaning a no deal Brexit, and she has threatened that. Although I’m not sure how that might affect our rights.”

The overriding feeling among UK nationals in Spain about Truss in No. 10 is the feeling of trepidation that Hernández describes.

With its fourth leader in six years and the third to take the helm of Britain in the post-Brexit world, for Brits abroad Truss’ rise to Downing Street has prolonged that uncertainty. 

With her apparent willingness to simply tear up internationally binding agreements, many will worry if the situation in Spain will be taken back to square one.

One would hope that her previously positive interactions with the Spanish state could mean that she lends a hand in resolving some of these lingering administrative issues affecting Britons in Spain, but the propensity to change her politics when it suits her make this unpredictable, and her reliance on Eurosceptic forces within her party make it unlikely.

How about Gibraltar?

This unpredictability could be of particular concern for UK nationals in Gibraltar. After voting Remain by a whopping 96 percent, the tiny British territory was not included in the main Brexit deal that came into effect from January 2021, and complicated multilateral negotiations between Gibraltar, London, Madrid and Brussels have rumbled on without resolution. 

Truss’ rhetoric on Gibraltar during her tenure as Foreign Secretary was as combative as her anti-EU talking points during the Tory leadership campaign, continuing the us-against-them language: “We will continue to defend the sovereignty of Gibraltar.”

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