As the parliamentary stalemate over Brexit continues, it is still possible that the UK could leave the EU without a deal. What could this mean for British citizens who are abroad in the EU on or after a no-deal Brexit?
Q: Will I need to get a visa to remain in the EU country I’m in or travel on to another one?
This will depend on your situation and purpose of travel. If you are a tourist, you will not need to have a visa for a short stay of less than three months. In early April, the European Council and the European Parliament agreed that, following Brexit, UK citizens coming to the Schengen area for a short stay (90 days in any 180 days) should be granted visa-free travel. But this is only for the purpose of tourism – if you want to take up a paid activity, such as work, you will need a visa. The rules for work visas depend on the national legislation of each EU member state and will vary across the 27 member countries.
In addition, even for the purpose of tourism, according to EU rules, visa exemption in all EU member states is granted on condition of reciprocity. This means the UK government has to grant visa-free travel to the remaining EU member states as well. For now, the UK government has indicated that it does not intend to require a visa from EU citizens travelling to the UK for short stays of less than three months. In the event that this changed in the future, EU member states could revoke visa-free travel for UK citizens.
Q: Can I still drive with my regular British licence?
After Brexit, UK drivers may need one or more international driving permits to drive abroad. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, UK drivers may also need an international driving permit and extra documentation to drive in the EU and European Economic Area (EEA). If you hold a UK licence and live in the EU or EEA, you might need to exchange your UK driving licence for a local EU driving licence before Brexit. From then on, if there is no EU Brexit deal, you may have to pass a driving test in the EU country you live in to be able to carry on driving there.
Q: Will my European Health Insurance Card still work if I need medical help?
If you are planning to travel to the EU after the UK is scheduled to leave the EU, you may be wondering whether your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will be valid. The card currently entitles you to state-provided medical treatment if you fall ill or have an accident.
If the UK leaves without a deal, your EHIC card will no longer be valid – so do check your travel insurance coverage. If the UK adopts a deal, both sides have reached agreement that there should be a transition period until at least December 31, 2020. During this period, all EU law, including relating to your EHIC card, would continue to apply in the UK. You would still be able to use your card.
Q: Am I likely to face delays or difficulty returning to the UK?
If there is no deal, there are likely to be long delays for travel to and from the EU, whether by car, train, or plane. The UK will be treated like a third country to the EU, which means new border regulations and security checks would apply, making cross-border travel much more difficult.
Q: Will my telephone roaming charges still be free in the EU?
This will depend on the individual phone companies. The UK will no longer apply EU legislation, meaning that individual companies would be allowed to charge extra roaming charges in the EU. It is not clear whether and which companies might charge roaming fees. In the short term you will probably not pay extra roaming charges, but in the medium term this will only be secured if the UK government also introduces national legislation to ban phone companies from charging roaming fees.
Q: What about Britons who live in the EU?
The rights of Britons to live and work abroad in the EU will depend on the national legislation of each EU member state. Some EU countries, such as Spain, have introduced clear rules that make it relatively easy for Britons to continue living there. Other countries have not legislated for this eventuality at all. As a result, there could be very wide discrepancies across all 27 EU member states.