ETOA CEO Tom Jenkins has one word: “Ugh”

How to tourists travel to Europe and the UK after Brexit? These are the questions many in Europe have today after Brexit will now happen by the end of January 2020. How do travel and tourism leaders feel? “Ugh” could be interpreted as disgusting.  Ugh is the comment made to eTurboNews by the CEO of the European Tour Operator Association, (ETOA), Tom Jenkins Tom has been CEO of ETOA for twenty years. Tom ensures ETOA’s financial viability and oversees the strategic development of all ETOA projects and practices. This includes keeping ETOA at the forefront of the travel industry matters and reporting back to the membership on developments at a European level. One word says it all, and Jenkins should know.

Today’s report on CNBC suggested once the dust settles on Britain’s third general election in less than five years, many market participants will seek clarity from the government on what happens immediately after Jan. 31.

The world’s fifth-largest economy will maintain relations with the EU until at least the end of 2020 as it negotiates trade and other ties to the bloc.

Of course, the U.K. could still have a hard exit from the single market and customs union at the end of 2020 if the U.K. and the EU do not manage to strike a free-trade agreement in time for the end of the transitional period.

Even in this respect, the apparent election result mitigates the risk: If the exit poll is right and Johnson is set for a big majority, the hardline eurosceptic wing of the Conservative will matter less than before. This would make it easier for Johnson to go for a longer transitional period if needed.

Johnson has consistently said he will be able to secure a trade deal with the EU by the end of 2020 or leave without one if he doesn’t.

To be sure, a so-called “no-deal” Brexit is seen by many inside and outside of Parliament as a “cliff-edge” scenario to be avoided at all costs. According to ETOA, the United Kingdom (UK) is set to leave the European Union (EU) at 23.00 GMT on 31 January 2020.

Until the withdrawal agreement is ratified by UK and EU Parliaments, the default scenario is the UK to leave without a deal. The following guidance outlines travel in a ‘no deal’ scenario published by the European Commission and UK Government. Some changes would come into effect immediately following the UK’s departure from the EU and may also affect travel to the non-EU countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland).

The following  information  published on the ETOA website with information on Immigration and Border Processes should be used as guidance only:

UK citizens traveling to EU

  • UK citizens visiting Ireland will continue to enjoy free movement in accordance with the Common Travel Area arrangements between Ireland and the UK.
  • Visa free travel will be allowed for up to 90 days in a 180 day period in Schengen countries. This will include non-Schengen EU countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania) as the same rules are applied at their external borders. Time in a non-Schengen country does not count towards the 90 day limit in Schengen.
  • UK citizens must have 6 months validity remaining on their passport when arriving in Schengen countries and any additional months added over 10 years may not count. For non-Schengen countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania), 3 months after the intended departure is required. UK Government has a website tool to check if a passport will be valid here.
  • UK will become a ‘third country’ of the EU and therefore UK citizens may be subject to extra entry checks at the EU border. Questions asked by border officials may include purpose and itinerary of stay and evidence of subsistence.
  • UK citizens will not be allowed to use entry lanes at the EU border reserved for citizens from EU/EEA/CH countriesEach member country can decide whether the UK will have its own entry lane or be required to join lanes with other non-EU countries.
  • UK citizens will be subject to ETIAS when introduced by the EU from 2021 to non-EU visa waiver countries. The fee will be €7 per person valid for 3 years and allow multiple entries.

Further information on travel can be found in the fact sheet produced by the EU Commission here.

EU citizens traveling to UK

  • Irish citizens visiting the UK will continue to enjoy free movement in accordance with the Common Travel Area arrangements between Ireland and the UK.
  • A visa will not be required for EU/EEA/CH citizens visiting the UK. UK Government guidance can be found here.
  • There will be no restriction on the length of stay in the UK for EU/EEA/CH citizens visiting, working and studying until the new UK immigration policy is implemented (proposed from 1 January 2021).
  • EU/EEA National Identity cards can still be used (EU and Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) but acceptance will be phased out during 2020. UK Government is to announce more details in due course and say they “recognize that some people will need to apply for a passport and that sufficient notice will be required to enable them to do so.”
  • EU/EEA/CH citizens will be able to use e-gates at the UK border with a biometric passport.
  • A passport with less than 6 months’ validity will still be accepted.
  • The blue EU customs channel will be removed at the UK border and therefore all travellers will be required to make a customs declaration by choosing either the green or red channel. Further information on bringing goods into the UK after Brexit can be found here.

Non-EU citizens traveling to the UK 

  • Visa requirements (if applicable) will stay the same as before the UK’s departure from the EU.
  • However, some non-EU citizens will require an airport transit visa, if en route to the UK they pass through the international transit area of airports situated in the EU (except Ireland) or in the Schengen Associated Countries (Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland). A UK visa will no longer exempt from this requirement.
  • The ‘List of Travellers Scheme’ is under review and may be phased out during 2020. This applies to non-EU citizens resident in an EU country traveling on a school trip.
  • There will be no change to the entry process at the UK border.
  • This includes travel from Republic of Ireland to Northern Ireland, where the British-Irish Visa Scheme and Short-Stay Visa Waiver Programme remain in effect. Due to the Common Travel Area arrangements, visitors will continue to not be subject to immigration checks when traveling between the two countries.
  • Since June 2019, 7 non-EU citizens are now allowed to use e-gates at the UK border – USA, Canada, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Australia and New Zealand.
  • Landing cards from all other countries have also been abolished.

Non-EU citizens traveling to EU

  • Visa requirements (if applicable) will stay the same as before the UK’s departure from the EU.
  • There will be no change to the entry process at the EU border.
  • This includes travel from Northern Ireland to Republic of Ireland, where the British-Irish Visa Scheme and Short-Stay Visa Waiver Programme remain in effect. Due to the Common Travel Area arrangements, visitors will continue to not be subject to immigration checks when traveling between the two countries.


UK citizens living in EU

  • For a stay lasting more than 90 days a residence permit or a long-stay visa from the national migration authorities of the EU country will be required (excluding Ireland).
  • UK citizens will continue to not be subject to immigration restrictions to live and work in Ireland, in accordance with the Common Travel Area arrangements between Ireland and the UK.

Further information issued by the UK Government is available here and includes living in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.

EU citizens living in UK

Prior to UK’s departure from EU

  • All EU citizens (excluding Irish) are required to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme before 31 December 2020. The scheme is free and only needs to be completed once. For EU citizens living in the UK for less than 5 years, pre-settled status will be granted; 5 years or more, settled status. Both offer broadly the same rights i.e. access to work and health but EU citizens with pre-settled status can only leave the UK for up to 2 years in a row without affecting their status (whereas for those with settled status the maximum is 5 years). Further information on the statuses is available here.
  • Employers will not be required to undertake right-to-work checks after Brexit on EU employees resident in the UK prior to Brexit.

Arriving after UK has left EU until 31 December 2020 

  • EU citizens (excluding Irish) arriving after Brexit can live in the UK until 31 December 2020 without making any special arrangements in advance. However, to remain in the UK from 2021, EU citizens must before 31 December 2020, either apply for a 36-month temporary immigration status (European Temporary Leave to Remain – Euro TLR) or have applied and obtained a UK immigration status under the proposed UK’s new immigration strategy from 1 January 2021.
  • The Euro TLR will be free to apply for and the 36-month period will start from the date the leave is granted and not from 1 January 2021.
  • The Euro TLR also applies to citizens from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
  • Irish citizens are unaffected and can live in the UK in accordance with the Common Travel Area arrangements.

Further information issued by the UK Government is available here.

All non-UK citizens living in UK from 1 January 2021

  • The UK Government has proposed a new immigration strategy (December 2018) subject to approval of UK Parliament, which would start from 1 January 2021 (even if a ‘deal’ is agreed).
  • Under the current proposed strategy, EU and non-EU citizens seeking employment would have the same single access route and would be required to satisfy the criteria of a ‘skilled worker’ to be able to access rights and stay in the UK for more than 1 year. A UK employer would need to sponsor the employee but the Resident Labour Market Test would be abolished (where an employer has to advertise a job for 4 weeks and consider applications from resident workers before offering it to a migrant). There would be no cap on the number of ‘skilled’ workers. A £30,000 annual salary threshold would be applicable (lower for Graduate entry jobs and those aged 25 and under) and the skills threshold would be RQF level 3 (A Level, Advanced Apprenticeship, Level 3 NVQs).
  • As a transitional measure (full review in 2025), temporary short-term workers at all skill levels would be allowed up to 1 year from specified low risk countries (to be determined). There would be no salary threshold and employers would not need to sponsor. Employees would have limited access to rights such as health.
  • Please note this current proposed strategy is subject to change as the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) are currently reviewing the salary threshold and whether to introduce a new, points based immigration system. MAC has requested businesses to respond to their consultation (open until 5 November here). Their report is expected in January 2020.


Air Services

  • The UK will no longer be a member of the EU Open Skies Agreement but ‘basic connectivity’ of ‘point-to-point’ air services will be allowed between the UK and EU after the UK’s departure from the EU.
  • UK airlines will not be allowed to operate intra-EU flights and likewise EU airlines will not be allowed to operate intra-UK flights.

Further information on the UK Government’s policy position on air services can be read here.

Road Licences / Insurance

  • Mutual recognition of driving licenses by EU member states will no longer automatically apply to UK license holders.
  • UK license holders can check whether an International Driving Permit (IDP) is required here for a European country. If applicable, an IDP can be purchased from Post Offices.
  • EU license holders will not require an IDP to drive in the UK.
  • A UK trailer may need to be registered before being towed in some European countries. Further information is available here.
  • A green card (proof of insurance) will be required for UK license holders traveling to the EU and EU license holders traveling to the UK. A green card can be obtained from insurance companies and one month’s notice is recommended to be given. If the vehicle is towing a trailer, an additional green card for the trailer may be required.
  • UK vehicles will need to display a GB sticker on the rear of the vehicle when traveling in the EU (except in Ireland), even if the registration plate has a GB identifier.

Further information from UK Government is available here.

Coach Travel

  • The UK will join the Interbus Agreement which will allow ‘closed-door’ coach tours (occasional services) to continue to EU countries and Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Moldova, Turkey, and Ukraine.
  • The UK Government has advised that until an agreement is reached, UK coaches will not be able to run occasional services to non-EU countries that are not party to the Interbus Agreement; these include Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. This is because there is no agreement that allows a non-EU registered coach to travel through the EU to a non-EU country.
  • UK coaches can still drive through a country not in the Interbus Agreement, but that country cannot be the destination.
  • EU registered coaches can still travel to Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland as their destination.
  • The Interbus Agreement does not allow cabotage (pick up and set down of passengers outside the coach company’s home country). It will depend on a national Government’s discretion whether this is allowed.
  • We understand that the UK will allow cabotage by EU operators on a ‘temporary basis’ (historically interpreted as 3 months). Therefore, an EU coach would be allowed to pick up and set down passengers on a tour within the UK during this period but must return to the EU within 3 months.
  • Scheduled regular coach services will be allowed to continue due to contingency measures agreed until their inclusion in the Interbus Agreement is ratified.

Further information from the UK Government is available here.

Road delays

  • Due to new border procedures between the UK and EU particularly with regards to customs, journey times may be disrupted, especially in Kent. This should be taken into account when planning itineraries to comply with driving hours regulations.
  • It is anticipated that delays are more likely leaving the UK than leaving the EU for the UK.
  • ETOA met with Eurotunnel and the Port of Dover in September 2019 who have invested in human resources and infrastructure and both companies are prepared for Brexit. Further information for Eurotunnel coach passengersEurotunnel car passengers and from the Port of Dover.
  • Details of Operation Brock, a contingency plan to manage congestion in Kent and to check whether it has been activated can be viewed here. Operators can also check live communications issued by Highways England, Kent County CouncilEurotunnel and the Port of Dover.
  • Highways England should also be checked when traveling to other UK ports.


  • Cross border rail services in Ireland and between England and mainland Europe will continue to operate as normal.



  • As the UK will become a ‘third country’ to the EU, UK citizens will be entitled to a VAT refund on goods/services purchased within the EU.
  • EU citizens will not be able to claim a VAT refund on goods/services purchased in the UK until legislation is passed by UK Parliament.
  • UK version of TOMS is proposed by UK’s HM Revenue & Customs where UK businesses will only pay VAT on UK travel.
  • UK businesses trading in EU countries are still subject to VAT on EU travel and may need to register for VAT in each member state to pay and reclaim VAT on the price paid by the consumer. EU guidance on VAT is available here.
  • HM Revenue & Customs have yet to confirm if EU businesses trading in the UK will pay UK VAT. We understand this will not be the case but this could change depending on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

Members can receive initial advice on a complimentary basis by contacting Elman Wall Bennett (contact details provided in the member area hotline page) or please contact ETOA’s policy team for further information.

Customs and Duty on Goods 

  • Allowances and restrictions for goods brought into the EU from the UK will be re-introduced and subject to customs checks and duty if over the allowance.
  • Animal origin products such as ham and cheese will be prohibited in a traveler’s luggage. Exceptions are provided for certain types such as infant food or for medical reasons.

Further information from European Commission is available here.

Other matters


  • The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) may no longer be valid for UK citizens unless there is a bilateral agreement between UK and an EU member country in which assistance is sought.
  • For instance, the UK and Spain (including the Balearic Islands and the Canary Islands) have agreed that the UK and Spanish citizens will be able to access healthcare in each other’s country until at least 31 December 2020.
  • Due to the Common Travel Area arrangements, UK and Irish citizens are able to access healthcare in each other’s country.
  • The UK Government has committed to covering the healthcare costs of UK visitors to the EU who commenced their trip prior to the UK leaving the EU until they return to the UK.
  • As the EHIC scheme covers pre-existing conditions, check when purchasing a travel insurance policy if pre-existing conditions are covered too, as some policies do not.
  • UK citizens can access country-specific information provided by the NHS here.
  • For UK citizens living in the EU, the UK Government has issued guidance here.
  • EU/EEA/CH citizens can view information on accessing healthcare in the UK here as arrangements differ by country and time period.

Card Payments

  • Charges on card payments may increase as transactions between the UK and EU will no longer be covered by EU rules limiting fees.


  • Surcharge-free roaming will no longer be guaranteed. Therefore charges could be re-introduced for UK citizens in the EU and EU citizens in the UK by mobile communication providers for roaming services.
  • Some mobile operators in the UK (3,EE,o2 and Vodafone) have no plans to re-introduce roaming charges for UK customers traveling in the EU but check with the mobile operator before traveling to confirm.

Further information from the UK Government is available here.