Changes to travelling to the EU and access to healthcare after Brexit

The rules on travelling now the UK has left the EU are largely the same as they were when the UK was still part of the EU, but could change after 31 December 2020. Find out more about what could change and what to do if you’re affected.

Will I still be able to travel to the EU?

Yes. The Withdrawal Agreement sets out an implementation period lasting until 31 December 2020. This is a time-limited period before Brexit-related changes take place.

During the implementation period, your rights and those of your family members will not change. You will be able to continue to live, work and study in the EU as you do now.

The rules on travelling to the EU will remain the same during this period. You can move to a different country in the EU in the same way as you can now.

Travel to the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein will change from 1 January 2021. You’ll still be able to go the EU, but you will have to check a few things, and possibly apply for extra documents.

Things you may need to do before you go include:

  • checking your passport
  • getting travel insurance that covers your healthcare
  • checking you have the right driving documents
  • organising pet travel - contact your vet at least four months before you go.

Before you book your travel, you need to check that both adult and child passports have at least six months to run before they expire.

Any new rules will apply to passports issued by the UK, Gibraltar, Guernsey, the Isle of Man and Jersey.

Can I still use my current passport?

If you already have a passport, there’s no need to worry, it will still be valid until the expiration date. Existing rules will still apply.

Be aware that passports will soon be blue instead of burgundy red. If you need to renew your passport you may get a blue passport from early 2020. By mid-2020, all new British passports will be blue.

Early renewal of ten-year adult passports

If you renewed a ten-year adult passport before it expired, extra months may have been added to your new passport’s expiry date, making it valid for more than ten years.

Any extra months on your passport over the ten-year limit may not count towards the six months that must be remaining on your passport for travel to most countries in Europe.

Is my EHIC still valid if I visit or live in the EU or EEA?

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives you access to state healthcare in the European Economic Area (EEA), plus Switzerland. You’re effectively treated as a resident of the country you’re in, getting treatment either at a reduced cost or for free by the state healthcare system.

From January 2020 until December 2020, the EHIC will work just as it does now. After December 2020, the EHIC could work as it does now, but this depends on what is decided.

We highly recommend you still take out travel insurance to make sure you’re covered.

Check for the latest information on European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) online, or by phone on 0300 330 1350.

Travel insurance and getting ill or injured abroad

There are no changes to the rules on travelling to the EU before the transition period ends on 31 December 2020. If you are travelling in the European Economic Area or Switzerland during this time, you can apply for and continue to use your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), as you did before. The EHIC gives you the right to access emergency state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in those countries.

Remember that the EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance. It will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs, such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK, or lost or stolen property. It is not valid on cruises.

You should make sure your travel insurance covers your healthcare needs.

It’s important to make sure you understand the terms and conditions of your travel insurance policy, and that you are happy with the level of healthcare and travel disruption cover it provides.

If you already have travel insurance to cover your trip, your insurer should let you know if there will be any changes to the way your policy is serviced.

If you have questions about what your travel insurance policy covers, you should contact your insurer.

Access to healthcare if you’re an EU national living in the UK

There are no changes to the rights and status of EU nationals currently living in the UK on 31 January 2020 until 30 June 2021. That means you’ll be able to access the NHS free of charge if you are ordinarily resident in the UK.

However, you and your family should apply to the EU Settlement Scheme to continue living in the UK and protect your ability to access healthcare. The scheme opened on 30 March 2019.

Can I still claim compensation for my delayed flight after Brexit?

EU Regulation 261 establishes the rights of passengers – including their right to compensation and assistance – if they are denied boarding against their will, or if their flight is cancelled or delayed.

Air passengers on a flight departing the UK will have the same passenger rights as before. This is because EU passenger rights legislation was retained in domestic law by the EU Withdrawal Act.

This means that passengers subject to denied boarding, delay or cancellation would be entitled to assistance and compensation on the same basis as before the UK left the European Union.

So current passenger rights arrangements will continue to apply to the UK until the end of the year. But even after that, the Government has said flight delay compensation rules will remain the same, as it’s written them into UK law.

Find more information on your rights for claiming compensation for flights to or from the EU and the UK on the CAA website or on the Money Saving Expert site.

Will roaming charges come back for using mobile phones in the EU?

During the implementation period until the 31 December 2020, EU rules and regulations on mobile roaming will continue to apply. What will happen after this period will depend on the UK’s future economic relationship with the EU. The four main mobile operators - EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – have all said they have no current plans to reintroduce roaming surcharges.

This is not guaranteed so it’s possible roaming charges could be introduced after the end of the transition period. To safeguard consumers a £45-a-month limit on the amount that can be charged for using mobile data abroad will be introduced. With customers having to opt in if they want to exceed this cap. Customers will be informed when they have reached 80% and 100% of their data allowances.

If you’re in Northern Ireland mobile phone operators will be required to take “reasonable steps” to help avoid customers being charged for accidental roaming because of receiving a signal from the Republic of Ireland.

Mobile roaming charges will depend on your network - but most of the big networks have said they will continue to offer free roaming.

The four main mobile operators - EE, O2, Three and Vodafone - have said they have no current plans to reintroduce roaming surcharges. If you’re on other networks you should check with your phone company for any extra charges.

The UK Government has passed a law to make sure operators continue to prevent your data roaming charges going beyond £45 per monthly billing period unless you actively choose to use more data.

But you should check what your mobile network says about roaming before you travel abroad.

Can I still travel with my pets between the UK and the EU?

Yes, UK citizens can still take dogs, cats (and ferrets) to and from the EU. Pet passports for travel in the EU will be void once the implementation period ends on the 31 December 2020. Pet owners will need to contact their vets four months before any planned travel to the EU.

To make sure your pet can travel from the UK to the EU after 31 January 2020 in any scenario, you should contact your vet for the latest advice.

More information on the health preparations and documents you would need for travel to the EU, including information on the documents required to enter or re-enter the UK, is available on GOV.UK.

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