Fiona contacted the show to ask how the Brexit vote will affect travel. She regularly visits her friends’ holiday home in Spain.
The first thing to realise is that although Britain has voted to exit the EU, we haven’t actually left yet. The referendum vote will still need to be ratified by Parliament and then the UK government can start the exit process, which would take at least two years. So if you’re planning to travel to Europe this summer, there should be no difference to your journey or the process you’ll go through at the airport, train station or port.
But there is one area where you may see an immediate effect. The economic uncertainty has hit the pound – it’s fallen by up to 10% over the past week – so your money won’t go as far as it did last year.
So what if you’ve already paid for your holiday? Travel Association ABTA allows holiday companies to impose surcharges “when the cost of a package holiday goes up after you booked because of currency fluctuations and rising fuel costs”. The firm has to absorb the first 2% increase and if the surcharge goes above 10% cent then you have the right to cancel. But if you’ve already paid for your holiday, it is unlikely that you will need to pay a surcharge.
And the outlook for the long term? Well it all depends on how the UK negotiates its exit with the EU. Some travel experts are predicting new immigration rules for our large airports, meaning EU citizens might not be able to go through the ‘fast’ channel. That could mean huge queues for foreign visitors. But as Britain ‘exports’ a huge number of travellers to other EU countries, to the benefit of their local tourism economies, it’s unlikely Brits will need special visas to travel to Europe. We already have to go through the ‘Non-Schengen’ line and have our passports checked in EU airports anyway.
It could lead to higher airfares though. Budget carriers like Easyjet and Ryanair have flourished under the Open Skies agreement, which allows airlines to operate freely across the continent. If that’s under threat, the airlines’ costs could go up and they’ll pass that on to us. Other EU regulations that protect travellers, such as flight delay compensation and the recently-introduced cap on roaming charges for mobile phones could also come up for review.
Finally, nobody knows what will happen to UK citizens who have holiday homes in the EU, particularly Spain, France and Italy. There could be a rush to sell, which might see property prices in popular areas plummeting.
But there could be some upsides too.
At the moment, we can’t buy duty-free products if flying to other EU countries. That could change in the future. But stocking up on a car-full of wine during your French holiday, or cheap cigarettes in Spain, might be a thing of the past – there’s likely to be limits on what you can import from an EU country.
Remember, these are all just predications. Until the details of Britain’s exit from the EU is agreed, nobody can be certain what will happen and when.