What Will Brexit Mean for Travel in the Future?
In December 2016, the word ‘Brexit’ was officially added to the Oxford English Dictionary. Since then, we’ve heard it in some shape or form almost every day – hardly surprising considering almost 52% of us voted ‘Leave’ in the June referendum.
Whether it be newspapers, radio, comedy shows or, most recently, a pretty spectacular rant from Danny Dyer – it is a topic that dominates the national conversation. Opinions on it may differ but the one thing everyone can agree on? No one really knows what Brexit means for us as a country.
What does it mean for travel?
For obvious reasons, the travel industry stands to be profoundly affected by Brexit. Europe has long been the holiday destination of choice for many Brits, with over 12 million of us visiting Spain alone in 2016. The appeal is clear: a huge amount of variety at a range of price points with most places just a short plane ride away.
Ever since we became a fully paid-up member of the EU (or EEC as it was then called) back in 1973, we’ve enjoyed the freedom to jet off to what is now a choice of 27 destinations via the most direct route - and all without having to apply for visas.
So, what do we know?
Due to the nature of Brexit, we don’t know much for certain and what we do know changes all the time. However, we can make some likely predictions based on the facts; here’s our breakdown of what the UK leaving the European Union could mean for travellers:
- Airfares increasing
The budget airlines tore up the rule book when they began offering fares that allowed people to travel abroad cheaply, sometimes for less than the cost of a domestic train journey. This was made possible by several factors, including encouraged competition from the EU on routes between these countries. We will now have to – or are in the middle of – renegotiating new agreements, and the outcome will determine if we’re still able to travel on similar fares. As tricky as it might be, it’s important not to be too swayed by sensationalist soundbites, particularly from pro-remainers. For example, Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary has been particularly vocal in saying that leaving the EU would spell disaster for the UK aviation industry. However, Ryanair has just announced 13 new routes to locations across Europe from London Southend, in a big new, post-Brexit investment in the UK.
- Requiring visas to enter European countries
This seems highly unlikely to kick in for a few years, if ever. It may come about as a result of a further collapse of the EU, with other countries taking their cue from us and leaving. In that case, border checks and paying for visas could potentially come into effect, but certainly not for the foreseeable future.
- Travel becoming more expensive
This is a little more cut and dry, as the pound has yet to recover from its post-Brexit slump. The pound is weaker, which in turn means that holidays are currently more expensive than they were before the referendum.
- The future of Duty-Free
This is something of a double-edged sword. As The Telegraph puts it, ‘We lost the right to buy duty-free when travelling to or from another EU country back in 1999. But we gained the right to bring home virtually unlimited amounts of duty paid goods from EU countries… Now that we are leaving the EU, presumably we will revert to the same arrangements which apply to all other countries.’ Bad news for fans of the booze cruise.
- Limited access to healthcare
Unfortunately, any conjecture around this particular point is purely hypothesis. Brits will most likely not retain their European Health Insurance Card, which often ensures free (or at least cheaper) healthcare in EU countries. However, if we continue to allow Europeans the same privileges in our hospitals, this may not vanish entirely.
If any of this seems vague, it’s because the information out there is equally so. Right now, all we can do is make our best guess and hope that the superlative travel relationship that the UK has enjoyed with the rest of the EU for decades will be taken into account and preserved. But it may be sensible to get booking those European breaks this summer, just in case!