The European Union plays an undeniably significant role in the life of the British holiday maker.
From the deregulating of aviation markets which drove down airfares, to improving consumer and health protection, we have come to enjoy increasingly higher standards as citizens of the bloc.
With the Lisbon Treaty's Article 50 not yet invoked, we have at least two years to enjoy full benefits of EU citizenship before our holidays are affected. After this, if the UK government decides to remain a member of the Single Market, we will continue to enjoy the benefits and protections we have currently. If government decides to remove us from the Single Market, we are likely to see an erosion of at least some standards of consumer and health protection.
Here we look at a number of areas where the EU affects UK holiday makers, and make some assessments on how things may change on Brexit.
Borders, Visas and Passports
For at least the next two years there will be no change to passport and visa requirements when travelling to the EU. During this period the UK will remain a fully paid up member of the bloc and we will continue to enjoy restriction-free travel to our favourite destinations in the other 27 member states.
Depending on how Brexit negotiations pan out, a significant change relating to travel could be an end to free movement of people.
If the UK leaves the single market, we will lose our right to move freely within the EU. Should this occur we are likely to be subject to similar rules as other third countries (non-EU countries), meaning we may need holiday visas for travel to EU countries. In most cases visas can be bought on arrival at customs so it shouldn’t add too much trouble, just a little more expense, admin, and time, and of course a defined time limit to our stay.
Since the 1990s when the European aviation market became deregulated we have been enjoying the benefits of increasing competition among airlines.
Air transport was previously characterised by national carriers, state-owned airports, and restrictions on routes, all of which created high barriers of entry for competition, high taxes, and resulted in higher prices for consumers.
If the UK leaves the EU and but stays a member of the the EEA (European Economic Area) there is likely to be no change to the aviation market and to the competition we enjoy among airlines. However, given that high immigration levels were a significant reason the UK wanted to leave the EU, it is possible the EEA is not something the UK government will consider, as this would mean upholding the rules of the Single Market which requires free movement of people.
It remains to be seen whether we continue to enjoy the lower fares brought about by the European aviation market. If we are not a member of the EEA / Single Market we can undoubtedly expect higher air fares in the future.
The pound has been hit hard by Brexit, plunging to levels not seen for over 30 years and it is estimated that it could go as low as $1.10. This is owing to a lack of confidence in the UK economy brought about by a high degree of uncertainty and risk.For any of us who have bought US dollars post-Brexit you will understand the pain of the pound’s woes.
The GBP-EUR picture is no rosier with £1 buying just €1.17 as of 5/7/16, down from €1.25 - €1.30 before the referendum.
The outlook may not be favourable regarding currency rates, but much depends on initial agreements of Brexit negotiations which will quickly indicate the openness of the UK economy going forward, and the attractiveness of both the economy and the pound as investment vehicles.
Delayed Flights Compensation
European Commission Regulation 261/2004 established rules regarding compensation and assistance to air travellers flying within the EEA in the event of denied boarding, longer delays (3+ hours), and cancellations.
The Regulation applies to flights departing from an EU airport, and to flights arriving in the EU where the carrier is an EU airline and is travelling from Norway, Iceland or Switzerland.
It is highly likely that airlines will lobby government to have consumer rights to compensation removed, and they could very well succeed, meaning Britons may lose the right to any compensation in the event of airlines overselling flights, causing delays, and cancelling flights.
Consumers enjoy significant protection under EU directives.
One such protection is against tour operators folding. In this event the consumer was protected against losing money or getting stranded if a holiday company goes bust.
We hope the UK government will create new laws to protect the holidaymaker, including protection against travel companies that fail.
Holiday Health ProtectionCurrently an EHIC (European Health Insurance Card), grants EU citizens access to health services in other EU countries at the same rate as citizens of the country they are visiting. This often means free access to health and hospital care. Additionally travel insurance policies often waive the excess payment on a claim when the policy holder also has an EHIC.
Post-Brexit we are likely to see the United Kingdom removed from the EHIC program, and access to free / reduced medical fees eliminated. This will make it vitally important for Britons travelling to the EU to purchase travel insurance to cover potential medical bills, which can quickly run into extremely large amounts.
The EU has forced mobile phone operators to eliminate roaming charges from mid-2017.
Currently EU roaming charges are capped at 4p/minute for calls, 2p/text message, and 4p/MB of data.
With the UK remaining a member of the EU for at least 2 years, we will enjoy a minimum of one year of free roaming before roaming charges are potentially reintroduced.
With a Single Market membership we will continue to enjoy free EU-wide roaming.
Free Movement Of Goods
Currently Britons can travel to France and take advantage of comparably low alcohol taxes combined with high limits of alcohol and tobacco you can return with to Britain.
The current import limits without customs interference stands at 800 cigarettes, 110 litres of beer, and 90 litres of wine.
If the UK leaves the Single Market we will see the end of the Great British Booze Cruise.
If we stay within the Single Market or EEA there will be no change.
If the UK leaves the Single Market Duty Free will be re-introduced when travelling between the UK and EU countries. So, what you lose out on in the booze cruise you can make up for in Duty Free.
Blue Flag Water Safety
Over the past few decades the EU has brought us cleaner waters for bathing around the continent. Nowhere has that been more apparent than around Great Britain where waters have been significantly cleaned up.
If the UK government is committed to sustaining and growing the nation’s tourism industry it would be a huge mistake to roll back on the high standards of water safety and cleanliness we have come to enjoy.
It is plain to see that the European Union has a powerful effect on our lives as holiday makers. From cost to health and consumer protection, the EU has forced airlines and travel companies to work hard and treat customers with respect.
The best outcome we can hope for as holiday makers is that we remain in the EEA. If that does not occur we are likely to see a return to higher air fares, less health and consumer protection and a reintroduction of barriers to travel.