Post-Brexit (2021) changes to passport rules, roaming, driving documents and more revealed
The Government has announced that from 2021 you'll need at least six months left on your passport to travel to most of Europe and a £5.50 permit to drive in some countries, while the guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU will end.
Update Tue 4 Feb: This story was written just before we left the EU on 31 January - but the info on post-2021 changes still applies.
After the UK formally leaves the EU on Friday (31 January) there will be a transition period until the end of the year when little will change for travellers – you can still travel in the EU as you can now. However, much less was known about what would happen from 1 January 2021 – and the Government has now announced a raft of changes which will apply to those travelling to Europe after that date.
See our 20 Brexit need-to-knows for full information on B-day.
Martin: 'These are the first tangible changes to practical rules'
Martin Lewis, founder of MoneySavingExpert.com, said: "These are the first tangible changes we're seeing to practical rules once we end the transition period – and they're not likely to be the last. While not earth-shattering for most, they do mean we'll need to be more organised and plan better for trips to Europe – especially pet owners, who will need to be ready for long lead-in times.
"EU mobile roaming is likely to become a competitive battleground. My suspicion is Three certainly will keep its 'roam like at home' [Three has since confirmed that this is the case], as it fits strongly with the brand and is its powerplay move. Others may follow, but probably only on the higher-level packages.
"There is still a lack of clarity over what will happen to the European Health Insurance Card, which currently gives UK travellers rights to use state-run hospitals and GPs at the same cost as a local.
"I suspect the card itself will end, but where possible similar deals will be struck. The Government has previously said it would like something similar to continue. Yet I know this issue is of particular concern for many older travellers who rely on the cards – and who are currently frustrated that they can't plan ahead until they know what happens."
What will change for travellers in 2021?
Here's a summary of the changes announced today which will apply from 1 January 2021:
- You may need to renew your British passport earlier if travelling. When visiting most EU countries and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, on the day you travel you'll need your passport to have at least six months left AND be less than 10 years old (even if it has six months or more left).
This means some will need to renew their passport earlier than normal. It's worth noting though that it won't apply when visiting every EU country (for example, it won't when going to Ireland).
- The guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway will end. Under the EU's 'Roam Like At Home' rules, currently, when making calls or sending texts to anywhere in the EU, or using data in one of those countries, you can use your UK allowance (or pay-as-you-go rates) as you would at home, subject to 'fair usage' rules. This will continue in the transition period – and until now we didn't know what would happen after that.
The Government's now said there'll be no requirement for mobile providers to offer free roaming from 1 January 2021, so you'll need to check with yours to find out what it plans to charge. Three has guaranteed that it won't change its roaming policy, while O2, EE and Vodafone say they have "no plans" to change theirs.
Under current EU rules there's a default €50 (£44) cap on data usage when you're travelling anywhere in the world – not just within the EU. The Government has confirmed that when this protection ends at the end of this year, it'll bring in a new law that means you're protected from getting mobile data charges above £45 without you knowing.
- You'll need to follow a different process, which takes four months, to take a pet abroad. You will not be able to use the existing pet passport scheme.
The UK will become what's known as a 'third country' from 1 January 2021. Exactly what new pet travel requirement will be put in place on 1 January 2021 will depend on what kind of 'third country' we're classified as. But in the meantime, the Government's warned the process will likely take four months. See the Gov.uk website for full info.
- You'll need extra documents when driving abroad in some countries. You'll need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in some European countries – these cost £5.50 and it's possible you may need more than one.
You can see if you need an IDP here – although the information will likely be updated over the next few months as more details come to light. We're checking with the Government exactly which countries will require which permit, but we haven't heard back yet.
If you're taking your own vehicle, you'll also need a 'green card' – essentially an international insurance certificate you can get from your insurer that proves your policy provides minimum cover.
- It's still not clear what will happen to the EHIC scheme. The Government still says the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) "might" not be valid. It's recommended that you get travel insurance if you're travelling from 1 January 2021.
- You won't need a visa for short trips to EU countries – but you will need to buy a £6 visa-waiver. This isn't new info announced today, but has been reiterated by the Government – for more info see our Brexit guide.
See the Gov.uk website for a full round-up of the changes.
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