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Brexit: Government hints free roaming in Europe may end as it updates travel guidelines

...but ultimately it’s up to the networks

With fewer than 48 hours until Britain leaves the EU, the Government has dropped some guidelines of what exactly this will mean for traveling to Europe once the transition period ends in 2021.
In a new page entitled “Visit Europe from 1 January 2021”, the government provides some home truths for those who might have expected “business as usual” once Brexit exits the initial divorce phase.
For starters, the ability to use your phone minutes, texts and data on the continent without extra charges will no longer be guaranteed. “From 1 January 2021, the guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway will end,” the page explains. “Check with your phone operator to find out about any roaming charges you might get from 1 January 2021.”
In other words, it’s down to the networks and what kind of arrangement they can reach with their European partners in the next year. If we do go back to the bad old days of roaming charges, however, then you can bet the first network to come up with a competitive deal will see a nice uptick in subscribers.
This, notably, is in contrast to reassurances given by the then Brexit secretary Dominic Raab in 2018, who told Radio 4 that roaming charges wouldn’t be coming back.
The Government does at least have a plan to stop bills getting out of control, although it isn’t exactly reassuring. “A new law means that you’re protected from getting mobile data charges above £45 without you knowing,” the page explains. “Once you reach £45, you need to opt in to spend more so that you can continue using the internet while you’re abroad.”
While the page is generally keen to put a “same as usual” feel to things, there are a few other big changes. You won’t be joining the EU, EEA and Swiss lanes when going through passport control any more, for a start, which may cause hold ups. And if you’re driving, you may need an international driving permit (IDP) as well as a green card and GB sticker if you’re bringing your own vehicle.
The current pet passport scheme will cease, and you’ll have to follow a new process that will take four months to arrange. Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) “might” not be valid, and you may need to show you have enough money to stay in a country upon arrival.
The (moderately) good news is that short-stay tourists won’t need visas. “You’ll be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period,” the government explains. That doesn’t necessarily apply for longer trips for workers and students, however.
Of course, much of this is actually still unknown. For all that the 2019 election promised the end of Brexit in January 2020, those who read the small print will know that we’re only really just closing the prologue.
If no agreement is reached by the end of the year, which the Prime Minister has set as a fairly arbitrary deadline, then the UK could still leave the EU without a deal – and at that point all expectations on travel are up for grabs.

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