Will Brexit affect travel insurance?

From 1 January 2021, travelling to Europe will be different – from passports to airport queues. See what’s changing and find out what you need to do to be prepared.

From 1 January 2021, travelling to Europe will be different – from passports to airport queues. See what’s changing and find out what you need to do to be prepared.

Josh Daniels
From the Travel team
minute read
Do you know someone who could benefit from this article?
Posted 11 DECEMBER 2020

How will Brexit affect travel?

After the Brexit transition period ends at midnight on 31 December 2020, the UK will have a different relationship with the EU, which will affect how we travel to and from our nearest neighbours. We won’t have the same freedom of movement between countries, so you’ll need to do a bit more than just booking tickets and picking up your passport.

And it’s not just the EU countries. Travel to Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein will also change from 1 January 2021.

So what do you need to do differently? You’ll have to:

  • Check your passport well in advance, because you’ll need at least six months to run on it, and make sure it’s less than 10 years old – even if it has six months or more left
  • Get travel insurance that covers healthcare, and declare any pre-existing medical conditions that you have. This is because the reciprocal arrangements will no longer be in place and you won’t be able to use your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC)
  • Make sure you have the right driving documents if you plan to drive your vehicle abroad
  • Organise pet travel if you plan on taking your cat or dog with you. You won’t be able to use the pet passport scheme, and will need to make new arrangements at least four months ahead of time
  • Have a return ticket or an onward ticket that you can show when you arrive at the border
  • Show that you have enough money to cover your trip. It’s also possible that you may be asked to prove you have somewhere to stay

Will I still be able to go on holiday in Europe after Brexit?

Yes, of course, provided you follow the passport rules – otherwise you might find yourself being turned back.

But, during the pandemic, you should keep an eye on the rules around travel, self-isolation and quarantining on your arrival or return. These may depend on where you live in the UK, as the devolved nations can have different rules. Check the latest travel information on the government website.

It’s also worthwhile to check the requirements of your transport provider or travel company, to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their rules.

How long will I be able to spend in Europe after Brexit?

If you’re a tourist, you’ll be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. You won’t need a visa for short trips to most EU countries, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway or Switzerland. However, it’s likely that a fee will one day be introduced for a visa waiver – so that’s something to watch out for.

Visits to countries that aren’t in the EU’s free-movement Schengen area, such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania, won’t count towards your 90-day period.

If you’re going abroad for work or to study, you may need a visa or permit – so make sure you understand what the requirements are and do so in good time in order to get an application processed. There’s no current indication of how long this might be – partly because at the moment fewer people are travelling due to COVID-19.

It’s always worth checking the UK government’s travel advice early so that you have time to complete any requirements before you set off.

Will Brexit affect air travel?

Potentially, but hopefully in a minimal way. Airlines will check passports as usual to make sure they’re valid for you to travel as always. The bigger difference will be on arrival. You’ll no longer be using the EU queue when you arrive so, depending on how airports are staffed, you may have to wait longer.

Because many passenger rights were incorporated into UK law in the European Union Withdrawal Agreement air travellers will still be protected in a similar way as in the past for things like flight delay compensation. But how this will work in practice isn’t yet entirely clear. You don’t need to be an EU citizen to claim compensation so, if you fly between two European countries, you’ll still be covered under EU261.

Will Brexit affect the Eurostar?

Eurostar says its services will continue on the existing basis, timetable, and terms and conditions following Brexit. Their website says the company is currently working with its “station partners, governments and border authorities on both sides of the Channel to ensure that robust plans are in place for us to continue to operate in either a deal or ‘no-deal’ scenario after the transition period.” Essentially, this currently sounds like ‘business as normal’.

What’s happening to duty-free limits because of Brexit?

There will also be changes to what you’re able to bring duty-free into any country and on your return home, bringing the rules in line with travel to the rest of the world. You’ll be able to buy duty-free to take out with you, and the amount that returning passengers can bring back with them from non-EU countries will also be significantly increased and extended to EU countries. See what you can bring into the UK duty free.

Will there be travel disruption due to Brexit?

It is entirely possible that there may be some disruption as everyone gets used to new systems. There’s likely to be a change in the number of people in different queues at arrivals and departures, and documentation might also take longer to check. But everyone involved in the travel industry is working hard to try to minimise any potential disruption.

With COVID-19 still a major consideration for the travel industry, it may be hard to tell what’s due to the pandemic and what’s because of Brexit.

And as everyone gets increasingly used to the situation, travel insurance after Brexit will evolve to suit the new circumstances both from Brexit and from Covid.

Will my existing policy cover me for disruption due to Brexit?

Check your travel insurance to see if you have some kind of clause relating to Brexit. You’ll need to check carefully around any wording about delays. If you’re not sure, we suggest you ask your travel insurance provider before travelling, to see if you need further cover.

Will the price of travel insurance change due to Brexit?

Possibly. Under existing arrangements, UK citizens can get medical attention in an EU country in the same way that citizens of that destination can. It’s not yet clear if there will be a deal that allows for this reciprocal arrangement to continue. If not, it may be that policy premiums increase to cover potential additional costs from medical claims. Additionally, the impact of the pandemic may have some impact on travel insurance costs due to a higher chance of people making a claim, so it may be hard to tell what is caused by one or the other.

Will medical cover be affected post Brexit?

It depends. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives EU citizens the right to receive medical attention under the same conditions as citizens native to the country you are visiting. Many European travel policies required you to have an EHIC card and use it if you needed medical attention in Europe as part of the policy rules. For the time being, if you are planning on travelling in Europe from 1 January 2021 it’s probably safest to assume that the scheme will not continue and to make sure you have travel insurance including coverage for any pre-existing medical conditions you have, as advised by the NHS. A few people will still be able to get an EHIC card, such as people with a qualifying pension or frontier workers – those who work in one state and live in another. See if you’re eligible.

How will Europe be considered as a region when it comes to travel insurance?

Not all insurance providers will treat Europe the same way. Some may divide it up further into different bands. For example, some may treat the Schengen area as one group and everyone else as another. The Schengen area is a zone of 26 European countries that have abolished their internal borders to enable the free and unrestricted movement of people. Some insurers may use other criteria to differentiate between different European destinations. When you’re getting a travel quote, make sure you say which countries you’ll be travelling to – including any that you may visit even briefly by hopping over the border during your trip – that way you’ll get the right insurance for your destination.

How will Brexit affect business travel?

Business travel also covers things like attending conferences and going to business meetings. You’ll also count as a business traveller if you’re providing services, or touring as a musician or with art.

You’ll need to do all the things required for tourists detailed above, plus some additional things. You’ll need to check the entry requirements of any country you’re visiting and make sure you have the right documents necessary.

If you’ll be earning money in the EU, you’ll need to consider your tax liability and inform HMRC. You’ll also have to work out if you need to pay social security contributions (the equivalent of National Insurance) in the country you’re working in and if you should continue to pay it in the UK.

If you’re taking samples or work equipment, you’ll also need to make sure you’ve got the right documentation to take goods to the EU.

Looking for a quote?

Get a new travel insurance quote in minutes and you could start saving

Get a quote
Compare travel insurance Get a quote