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Brexit day: how travel, shopping and rights may change in the future

Emma Lunn
Written By:
Emma Lunn

The UK officially leaves the EU today. Whether you’re celebrating or commiserating, everyone needs to know how they’ll be impacted in the post-Brexit world.

More than three years after the Brexit vote, the UK has officially left the EU. While some details are still being worked out, the government has signalled some post-Brexit changes that UK consumers need to be aware of.

Below, we summarise the key points as of 1 January 2021:


On the day you’re travelling to Europe or Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, most countries will require you to have at least six months left on an adult or child passport and it must be less than 10-years-old. This is even if it has six months or more left on it.

However, these rules don’t apply to travel to Ireland. You can continue to use your passport as long as it’s valid for the length of your stay.

Visas for short trips

If you’re a tourist, you won’t need a visa for short trips to most EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. You’ll be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

Different rules will apply to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania. If you visit these countries, visits to other EU countries will not count towards the 90-day total.

You may need a visa or permit to stay for longer, to work or study, or for business travel.

You should check the government’s latest travel advice for information on how to get a visa or permit to the country you want to go to.

Travel to Ireland will not change from 1 January 2021. You’ll also be able to work in Ireland in the same way as before.

EU border checks

The coronavirus crisis and subsequent pre-Christmas lorry traffic jam in Kent gives us an idea of what Brexit border chaos might look like.

Both holiday makers and the business community should check the situation at EU borders before setting off on a trip. If you do not allow enough time, you could miss your flight, train or ferry.

Many European traders and freight carriers are worried about the prospects of further traffic jams and are holding back with their shipments to the UK. This could lead to supply chain shortages in the new year.

At any type of border control, you may need to show a return or onward ticket, prove you have enough money for your stay, and use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing.

Mobile roaming

The guarantee of free mobile roaming in the EU ends on 31 December next year. But so far, no UK mobile network has said it will re-introduce roaming charges. However, you should double check roaming charges with your network before you set off as this may change.

A new law means you’re protected from getting mobile data charges above £45 without you knowing. Once you reach £45, you need to opt in to spend more so that you can continue using the internet while you’re abroad. Your phone operator will tell how you can do this.
European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)

The government said the EHIC “may not be valid” and recommends people buy travel insurance with the right cover, particularly for those with pre-existing medical conditions. This is because the EHIC scheme covers pre-existing conditions, while many travel insurance policies don’t.

Driving abroad

Holidaymakers may need to have an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in some countries – check the list here. It may mean drivers have to get several IDP’s if visiting a number of countries. Drivers taking their own cars will also need a GB sticker and a green card. You’ll need to allow one month to get this from your insurance company

If you’re hiring a car abroad, the government said drivers need to check with the car hire company.

You could get a fine or your vehicle could be seized if you drive without the correct documents.

You need to put a GB sticker on the back of your vehicle if it’s registered in the UK, even if your number plate already shows GB with a Euro symbol

You could get a fine if you do not have a GB sticker when you need one.

Making payments

Shoppers may be charged more for using credit or debit cards to pay for things in euros when buying from companies in the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Norway. Payments may also take longer.

Package holiday protection

Consumers are protected when buying a package holiday and the company goes out of business. This cover will continue, even if it’s an EU company, as long as the company targets UK customers.

The government adds that if a package holiday firm isn’t established in the UK and doesn’t obviously direct their business at UK customers, then UK citizens should check the terms and conditions to make sure to know what will happen if the company goes bust.

Otherwise, you can claim compensation if you used your credit card as Section 75 protection will continue for payments between £100 and £30,000.

Pet travel

The government recommends allowing at least four months to arrange pet travel as the existing pet passport scheme won’t be in use from 1 January 2021.

Pet owners will need to contact their vet at least four months in advance to arrange a number of visits such as microchipping, blood samples, rabies vaccination and an animal health certificate.

If your pet or assistance dog does not have the proper documents, you will not be able to take it with you.