Brexit will impact on many aspects of life, but one thing we are receiving many questions on is travel restrictions.
Assuming that the UK leaves the EU on January 31st under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement – which is looking the most likely scenario at this point, although still not certain – here's a look at what is changing and what stays the same.
Under the terms of the Withdrawal Agreement once the UK leaves it then enters a transition period during which most things stay the same in terms of citizens' rights. This period lasts until at least December 31st 2020 and it is possible it could be extended.
Does anything change for British passport holders?
Your British passport of course remains a valid document for both travel and ID purposes, but from January 31st it will no longer make you an EU citizen.
During the transition period your travel in, out and around Europe remains visa-free so you do not need any supporting travel documents.
Can I still travel freely through the EU?
During the transition period, yes. Freedom of movement remains unchanged during the transition period, both for people moving to EU countries to live and work or just travelling. So if your dream is to pack in the rat race and spend six months wandering through French vineyards, Italian campos and Spanish fiestas then the transition period would be a good time to do that.
After the transition period ends there will be limits to how long UK citizens can spend at a time in the EU, even if they are not working there.
This is one of the things that is yet to be agreed, but it has been suggested that the 90 day rule – in which you can only spend 90 days out of every 180 in the EU without getting a long-stay visa – could apply. This would be the same as the rules already applied to other non EU citizens like Americans and Australians.
Can I leave France and come back if I don't have all my residency papers?
During the transition period you can continue to travel freely without the carte de séjour residency permit.
However there is a grey area around the end of the transition period. UK citizens have until six months after the end of the transition period to apply for a carte de séjour, but once the transition period ends a carte de séjour will be necessary when re-entering France after a trip outside the EU (for example back to the UK). A similar conundrum faced thousands of people in October when the threat of a no-deal exit loomed and many people did not have residency papers organised.
Despite repeated questions to both French and British authorities we never received a satisfactory answer to that question and the best advice we could offer was to take a dossier of paperwork proving residency (rental contracts, utility bills etc) when travelling in and out of the EU. With at least 11 months to go until the end of the transition period, hopefully that question can be answered this time.
Do I need extra travel insurance?
During the transition period, arrangements for healthcare remain the same, so if you have a valid EHIC card you can still use that and should you fall ill in any EU country your healthcare costs will be covered (although bear in mind that this only covers healthcare in the country you are in, not repatriation to the UK).
After the transition period ends, EHIC cards issued by the UK will no longer be valid. If you are resident in France and registered in the French healthcare system you can apply for a France-issued EHIC card and that will cover you for any healthcare in the EU (although not in the UK).
Healthcare arrangements for tourists after the end of the transition period are one of the issues to be addressed during the negotiations.
What about pets?
It's not only people who need passports, of course – dogs, cats and ferrets travelling between the UK and the EU need an EU Pet Passport.
During the transition period these will continue to function as normal, making travel with your furry friend a fairly frictionless experience.
After the transition period ends things are less clear as, for some inexplicable reason, the Withdrawal Agreement focuses mostly on humans.
This is something that would need to be dealt with during the transition period – essentially the UK needs to apply to be 'listed' with the EU as a country providing adequate animal health controls. If this is not sorted before the end of the transition period, the worst case scenario would be the same as the no-deal scenario outlined here.
What if I have dual nationality?
With the continued uncertainty around the status of UK citizens after Brexit, many people have opted to take dual nationality – either applying for citizenship through residency of the European country they are living in or applying for another passport – such as an Irish one – through family connections.
If you are lucky enough to already hold the passport of an EU country you will need to start using this when you travel in and out of the EU, in order to continue to benefit from freedom of movement.
What don't we know?
What happens during the transition period is fairly clear, but after that is over there are still many uncertainties.
Among the major ones are restrictions on the length of stay in EU countries – which is a big concern for second home owners in France – the process for applying for residency in France, the restrictions on people who want to move to France after the end of the transition period and whether pets could face extra passport controls.
These things are all supposed to be dealt with during the transition period, but the transition period is currently only 11 months long and the EU and UK also need to thrash out a trade deal during that time. So it's fair to say they have an ambitious workload.