Luke Petherbridge, head of public affairs, ABTA, on the latest Brexit negotiations – and their impact on the travel industry.
I imagine that I wasn’t the only person in the travel industry who breathed a huge sigh of relief when the Brexit extension was confirmed on April 11.
The extension provides much-needed certainty for holidaymakers over the summer season that nothing will change until at least October 31. During this period travellers going to a destination in the European Union can continue to travel exactly as they do now – EHIC will still be valid, they won’t need a driving permit or Green Card to drive abroad, and they can continue to use the EU passport gates.
This should give people total confidence to book their holidays or business travel plans, knowing that nothing will change in the short term.
To help get this message across, we have updated our Brexit advice for travellers at abta.com/Brexit and have been briefing national media about what the extension means for travel, as well as highlighting the great range of holidays available for the summer.
Although the UK could leave earlier if a deal is agreed, the extension removes the threat of no-deal in the short-term. MPs have already approved the legislation for European Parliamentary elections to take place, which is the prerequisite to avoid the possibility of no-deal on June 1.
The only feasible route to leaving the EU before October 31 is to do so with a deal.
The prime minister would prefer a quick deal. If the withdrawal agreement passes a vote in the House of Commons before May 22, this enables the cancellation of those European elections and delivers an orderly departure from the EU before the end of June. However, with talks between the government and Labour Party stalling, and no clear movement among MPs towards support for the prime minister’s deal, this outcome is looking extremely unlikely. What happens in the absence of a cross-party deal will be critical. Something has to give in order to break the current political impasse.
Keeping in mind the political deadlock, it is worth recognising that the possibility remains of leaving the EU without a deal on October 31.
There are plans in place to ensure flights will continue to operate and holidaymakers won’t need a visa in the event of a no-deal exit. Although this does offer some reassurance for both holidaymakers and travel businesses, there are still some outstanding issues that need to be addressed in the event of a no-deal – including reciprocal healthcare and posting workers abroad.
We will continue to work closely with the government, and officials in Europe, on the outstanding policy issues the industry faces. ABTA’s position remains that securing a deal is very much the preferred outcome and we encourage parliamentarians to explore all options to avoid
As the no-deal scenario remains a possibility later in the year, we are also recommending that members continue with contingency planning. We will continue to update our advice regularly in the coming weeks.