Preparing for a no-deal Brexit: travelling between the UK and the EU

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On 23 August 2018, the UK Government began publishing technical notes on the effect of a no-deal Brexit. These notes are intended to provide guidance to citizens, businesses, public sector bodies and Non-Governmental Organisations in the United Kingdom on how to prepare for the possibility of the UK leaving the EU next March without concluding a Withdrawal Agreement. It is expected that around eighty technical notes will be published in total. Over the next two months SPICe Spotlight will provide analysis and comparative information on a number of these. The first blog provided an overview of the UK Government’s Preparations for a no-deal Brexit.

This article covers four related technical notes:

Travelling to the EU with a UK passport

Most EU countries are members of the Schengen Agreement, which removes passport checks and border controls at the borders between countries within the Schengen area. Once inside, EU citizens, and many non-EU nationals, can travel freely as though in one country. As EU citizens, British nationals currently benefit from visa-free entry to the Schengen area with a valid passport.


The note states that, after 29 March 2019, the EU will consider British passport holders to be third country nationals under the Schengen Border Code. Third country nationals are citizens of countries which are not in the EU or EEA and are required to comply with different rules to enter and travel around the Schengen area, including the common visa policy. Third country passports must be:

  • valid for at least another 6 months for travel to most EU countries; and
  • less than 10 years old (even with 6 months or more validity left)

Failure to meet these criteria may result in denial of entry to any of the Schengen area countries. The note recommends that, to avoid non-compliance, a standard ten-year adult passport should be no more than nine years and six months old on the day of travel, or four years and six months for a five-year child passport. For EU countries not in the Schengen area, individuals should check the specific entry requirements for the country concerned.

From 2001, British passports renewed before the expiry date could have the time remaining added to the new passport. The maximum validity period allowed was ten years and nine months. Such passports may fail to meet the criteria outlined in the Schengen Border Code. Since the start of September 2018, extra validity is no longer added to UK passports, in line with recommendations made by the International Civil Aviation Organisation, and to ensure passport validity in the Schengen area.

The note highlights that the design of the British passport is due to change after the UK leaves the EU. Blue passports will be issued from late 2019 onwards.

Travelling within the Common Travel Area and the associated rights of British and Irish Citizens

The note discusses the Common Travel Area (CTA) – an arrangement between the UK, the Crown Dependencies (Jersey; Guernsey; Isle of Man) and Ireland. The CTA ensures that British and Irish citizens can move freely between and reside throughout these islands. It is not reliant on membership of the EU as it is based on domestic legislation and bilateral agreements. For other nationalities, the CTA’s internal borders are subject to some immigration restrictions but only very minimal border controls. British citizens in Ireland and Irish citizens in the UK can move to and work in each other’s jurisdictions unhindered and enjoy associated rights and entitlements including access to employment, healthcare, education, social welfare benefits, and the right to vote in certain elections.

The note makes it clear that the status of the CTA will not be affected by the UK’s withdrawal from the EU. The legislation governing the UK’s approach to the CTA will remain unchanged and British and Irish citizens will continue to have the same rights to enter and remain in each other’s jurisdictions as they do at present. This was confirmed by the European Commission in the December 2017 Joint Report by the negotiators of the EU and the UK.

Mobile roaming

UK nationals currently benefit from guaranteed surcharge-free roaming in the EU. This allows people to make calls, send texts and use mobile data services for no more than would be charged in the UK. EU roaming regulations require mobile operators to apply a default financial limit for mobile data usage of €50 per mobile billing period. Operators are also required to send an alert once a device reaches 80% and then 100% of the agreed data roaming limit. These requirements are not confined to use in the EU and apply no matter where in the world the user is. The regulations also place limits on the charges that mobile operators can levy on each other for providing roaming services and extends to the EEA.

The note confirms that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, these regulations would no longer apply to the roaming charges that EU mobile operators can levy on their UK counterparts. For customers of UK operators, this would mean an end to guaranteed surcharge-free roaming when travelling in the EU and EEA.

The UK Government plans to legislate to require mobile operators to apply a financial limit on mobile data usage while abroad. This would be set at £45 per month. Operators would also be required to send alerts in advance of agreed data roaming limits. While EU regulations will cease to apply, UK mobile operators could still make commercial agreements with their EU counterparts to maintain surcharge-free roaming for UK customers. Some mobile operators, including 3, EE, O2 and Vodafone have already indicated that they have no plans to change their approach to mobile roaming after Brexit.

Taking your pet abroad

Under the EU Pet Travel Scheme, UK owners of dogs, cats and ferrets can travel with their animals to and from the EU if they hold a valid EU pet passport. Before travelling for the first time, animals must be examined by an Official Veterinarian (OV) to ensure they have a microchip and a rabies vaccination. A pet passport can then be issued and remains valid for the pet’s lifetime or until all of the treatment spaces are filled. On their return to the UK, animals have their microchip scanned and passport checked.

The note states that, following a no-deal Brexit, the UK would become a third country under the EU Pet Travel Scheme. Pets could still travel from the UK to the EU, but the requirements for documents and health checks would differ. The degree of difference would depend on the category of third country the UK becomes after applying to the European Commission for listing under Part 1 or Part 2 of Annex II to the EU Pet Travel Regulations. The most significant differences would apply only if the UK became an unlisted country. Pet owners would need to discuss preparations with an OV at least four months in advance of travelling and would be required to:

  • provide proof of a pet’s rabies vaccination;
  • ensure their pet had a blood titre test, at least thirty days after that vaccination, to demonstrate sufficient levels of rabies antibody;
  • obtain a health certificate demonstrating the pet was appropriately identified and vaccinated; and

Andrew Warden, SPICe Research