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BREXIT

EU’s ‘no-deal’ Brexit plan spells out bad news for British travellers

The European Union on Tuesday published further contingency plans for a "no-deal" Brexit, piling pressure Prime Minister Theresa May by warning that Britons will lose a host of travel rights from recognition of driving licences to lower credit card fees and no mobile roaming charges.

EU's 'no-deal' Brexit plan spells out bad news for British travellers
Photo: AFP
The European Commission, the bloc's executive arm, said that, while it is working hard for a deal, it must prepare for “all outcomes” and “contingency measures in narrowly defined areas” may be needed to protect the EU's interests.
 
If a deal is agreed then the arrangements could still be applied at the end of any agreed transition period – which under the current withdrawal agreement would be January 1st 2021.
 
In one measure, Brussels said it will offer visa-free travel within the bloc to Britons on short trips, but warned this was “entirely conditional on the UK also granting reciprocal and non-discriminatory visa-free travel to EU citizens travelling to the UK”.
 
“UK nationals would be exempt from any visa requirement for visits of up to 90 days within a 180-day period. This is entirely conditional on the UK also granting reciprocal and non-discriminatory visa-free travel to EU citizens travelling to the UK.”
 
Frans Timmermans, the vice-president of the European Commission, said: “We will do upon you what you do upon us.”
 
However the Commission notes that “the UK government has already declared its intention not to require a visa from citizens of the EU27 Member States for shorts trips to Britain;
 
The EU says its visa proposal demonstrates its “commitment to putting citizens first in the negotiations with the UK”.
 
The proposal now needs to be adopted by the European Parliament and the Council.
 
The Commission published a nine-point advice notice to travellers between the UK and EU about what will happen if Britain crashes out without a deal. It spells out the rights Britons coming to the bloc will no longer enjoy if there is no agreement between London and Brussels.
 
British driving licences will no longer be recognised automatically by EU countries, leaving UK drivers to check with each country they travel in whether they will need an extra “international driving permit”, the notice says.
 
At airports, UK nationals will no longer be able to use the priority EU passport queue and will be subject to extra questions about the purpose and length of their visit. 
 
When it comes to health a no-deal would mean Brits would not be able to use the European Health Health cards (EHIC) to access treatments.
 
The warnings of what will happen in the event of a no-deal Brexit echo those already given by the British government earlier this year.
 
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Photo: AFP

 
They will also see limits reintroduced on the amount of alcohol and tobacco they can bring into the bloc and may have their bags searched by customs officials.
 
EU rules protecting air passengers will no longer apply to British flights and airlines, meaning that travellers on them may no longer be able to claim compensation if their flights are delayed or cancelled.
 
Recently introduced EU rules on mobile data roaming will no longer apply to the UK, allowing mobile phone companies to reimpose extra charges for Britons using their phones abroad.
 
And Britons were warned about rising costs of paying for gods with bank cards.
 
“As of the withdrawal date, transactions between the EU-27 and the United Kingdom will no longer be covered by the EU rules limiting interchange fees,” read the notice.
 
“Provided that merchants are allowed to apply surcharges on consumers for card payments, this may lead to a higher surcharge for card payments.” 
 
And Britons have also been told they will lose the right under current EU law to seek consular assistance from any EU member state if they are travelling outside the EU.
 
“As of the withdrawal date, UK nationals will no longer be able to benefit from this right and EU-27 citizens will no longer be able to turn to UK embassies and consulates to seek consular protection on the basis of EU law,” the notice reads.
 
But there is perhaps one silver lining for British tourists, they will be able to claim back VAT on items purchased within Europe when they leave. 
 
In today's Communication the EU also outlines priority areas where it is likely measures could be necessary should it appear likely that the UK will leave the EU “in a disorderly manner”. 
 
Among these are citizens' rights and businesses, both areas which could be affected by residency and visa-related issues, as well as financial services, air transport, customs, sanitary, the transfer of personal data, and climate policy.
 
The Commission has said that: “Any contingency measures would only be taken in limited areas where they are necessary to protect the vital interests of the EU and where preparedness measures are not currently possible.
 
“They would be temporary in nature, limited in scope, adopted unilaterally by the EU and must remain compatible with EU law.”
 
Various European countries have been stepping up their own preparations for a no-deal Brexit including France and Germany

Member comments

  1. …”.And Britons were warned about rising costs of paying for gods with bank cards.” i had no idea Britons were paying for gods with bank cards. How do I get one of those bank cards? I’ll pay the higher costs.

  2. Before you give up the simplicity (and low cost!) of buying deities with cash…[“And Britons were warned about rising costs of paying for gods with bank cards…”], think about what happens when you can’t make your payments and the EU god-collectors come round.

    Seriously, I just wonder how much of this is push-back on both sides. Talk about messy divorces! Nobody is thinking about the children!

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BRITS IN EUROPE

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.

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