Like it or loathe it, we need to talk about Brexit. The date has been a movable feast, but could sneak up on us. If that happens, would you be prepared? And what date is it anyway? The original date was 29th March but the government turned back from that cliff edge. The next date on the calendar for leaving (if there’s no deal) is 12th April. If a deal is voted through, the date would be 22nd May and, under that scenario we would be leaving with a deal, so there would be a transition period until 2020 giving us time to get our heads around new arrangements for travellers before they kick in.
Many of us are accustomed to travelling regularly to Europe for business or holidays; to visit friends and family; to stock up on booze. It’s a seamless process. We can turn up and buy a ticket on the day, breeze through immigration, hire a car at the other end and hit the autoroutes. If we crash out of the EU on 12th April, we’ve been told that trains, ferries and planes will still run – which is a relief – but we were also told that vital goods would be imported via a ferry company that had no boats, so I won’t be holding my breath. Individual travellers could hit problems if they don’t make a few advance preparations.
Note: The information here is to raise awareness and point you in the right direction. It’s not comprehensive and applies to UK citizens travelling to the EU, Norway, Switzerland, Lichtenstein or Iceland. Please don’t rely on it, but do your own research. It applies if we leave the EU without a deal on 12th April. It’s based on the most up to date advice on the government’s Visit Europe After Brexit page and you can read that in more detail and sign up for alerts at this link.
Much as I would like to stick my head in the sand and shut out the clamour, I can’t ignore it because I’m planning to travel to France on 14th April – two days after the next cliff edge. Can you imagine the crazy scrambling around if that happens? So it makes sense to think about what you might need to do.
After a no deal Brexit, we’re told you will need six months continuing validity on your passport to travel to a European country. Mine expires in January 2020, so I will be okay for an Easter visit, but (if there’s no deal) will have to renew it early if I want to travel to France in August. It takes three weeks to get a new passport or there’s a premium service. These rules won’t apply to Ireland. You can travel there as long as your passport is still valid.
The latest advice is that you won’t need a visa for a short trip post-Brexit and can stay for up to 90 days in a 180 day period. This won’t affect most travellers but it will potentially affect people, such as retirees, who might be used to spending the whole summer from May to September in Europe.
Although I find this hard to get my head around, we’re being told you may have to show your return tickets and prove that you have sufficient funds to support yourself for your stay. I’ve also read somewhere (don’t quote me on this because it seems totally bizarre) that, if you are staying with friends and not at a fixed address or hotel, your hosts might need to provide a letter or some guarantee of financial support. This won’t apply to second home owners who have an address and pay ‘taxe d’habitation’ in France.
What about working?
If you (or your student son or daughter) were thinking of rocking up and finding a casual job for the summer season, forget it. After a no deal Brexit, all employment will need appropriate working visas and will have to be arranged in advance.
If there is a deal, things will continue as now, at least for the time being and you will only need your UK driving licence and your log book (and insurance and breakdown cover) if you are taking your own car to Europe.
If there is no deal, you will need to get an International Driving Permit from a post office. This costs £5.50. You’ll also need this to hire a car in Europe. Our local post office branch doesn’t do these so we had to shop around to find a branch that does and managed to get them today (see photo). I thought it was rather apt that it was dated April Fool’s Day.
You will also need a green card from your insurance company which is, apparently, free but can take a month to organise.
If there’s no deal, free state health care cover under the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will end so you must make sure you have travel insurance that covers you for medical treatment.
Our dog, Gus (who is sadly no longer with us) travelled to France with us numerous times and had a pet passport. The advice on the government website – too complex to reproduce here - says this scheme is likely to end and the new arrangements could take four months to arrange. So if you normally take your pooch on holiday, read about this on the government website now.
Mobile roaming charges
If free roaming arrangements come to an end, this will be a major problem for me as I use my mobile phone package to work and respond to emails when I’m in France. The government’s advice is to contact your mobile phone provider. For me, this will mean spending long miserable hours in the local MacDonald’s in France to use their free Wi-Fi and that’s not a culinary feast I’m particularly looking forward to!
Alcohol and tobacco
If there’s a no deal Brexit there will be limits on the amount of alcohol or tobacco we can bring back into the UK (this applies to those who are aged seventeen or above). Try getting through from August until Christmas on one litre of spirits (or two of sparkling wine), sherry or port; a measly four litres of still wine, sixteen litres of beer and 200 cigarettes. The value of other goods you can bring in is £390 with tax or duty payable on the whole amount if a single item is worth more than the allowance.
So, if there’s no deal, we won’t even be able to bring back a carload of wine to drown our sorrows!
Hopefully the 12th April won’t turn out to be a drop-dead date and there will be an orderly transition. I’ll be keeping abreast of Brexit developments because I love France and spend as much time there as possible. As we learn more about the impact of Brexit on travels and life in France. I may share information on my blog. You can follow my blog or sign up to my mailing list at https://www.helenmatthewswriter.com/contact
My new suspense novel, set in France, is being published on 25th April. It’s called Lies Behind the Ruin and you can find out more about it or pre-order a copy at this link.
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This article first appeared as a guest post as part of my blog tour for Lies Behind the Ruin. I'm grateful to Books, Life and Everything for hosting me and have included the link to the website.
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