It is unclear when and on what terms the UK will exit the EU. Despite the uncertainty many people are making holiday and travel plans. This Insight provides guidance on how Brexit could affect passports and visas, insurance, package holidays, pet passports and more.

Flight disruptions

Flights between the UK and other countries are currently regulated by a variety of legal instruments, including EU and UK law, and international agreements such as the 1944 Convention on International Civil Aviation. If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, UK and EU licensed airlines would lose the automatic right to operate flights between the UK and the EU. They would have to seek advance permission for such flights. This could result in significant disruption.

To avoid any such disruption the European Commission published proposals to ensure basic air connectivity between the EU27 and the UK in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit. The UK aviation industry had concerns about the original proposals. The proposals were substantially revised to address those concerns. The International Air Transport Association (IATA), for example, welcomed the revised proposals describing them as “a common-sense approach.”

In the event of a no-deal Brexit these latest EU proposals would provide certainty for travellers and businesses looking to fly after ‘Exit Day’. The UK government has indicated that it will reciprocate. But these no-deal proposals are a temporary solution and will cease to apply on 31 December 2019.

For more on the background, see section 6 of the Commons Library Paper on Brexit and transport.

Passports and visas post Brexit

The Withdrawal Agreement

Under the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement, free movement will continue between the EU and the UK during the transition period. This means that travel between the UK and the EU for EU and UK nationals will continue on broadly the same terms as now. The transition period will allow a future immigration relationship to be negotiated by the EU and UK.  That future immigration relationship between the UK and the EU will commence after the transition period.

No deal

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal the GOV.UK guidance states:

“The European Commission has proposed that in a no deal situation, if you are a British Citizen, you would not need a visa for short stays in the Schengen area or elsewhere in the EU. You would be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Visits to the Schengen area within the previous 180 days before your date of travel will count against the 90-day limit.

If you are intending to stay in the Schengen area for longer than 90 days, or your stay would take you over the 90 days in the 180-day limit, you may need to get a visa before you travel.

Travel to EU countries currently outside the Schengen area (Romania, Croatia, Bulgaria, Cyprus) would not count towards the 90-day total.”

For more information read Government guidance : ‘UK nationals travelling to the EU: essential information’. It is important to note that the extent of changes in relation to immigration and visas will depend on the type of Brexit, and the necessary legislation is yet to pass the European Parliament.

Passports and Brexit

For information on changes to passport requirements, see the GOV.UK guidance ‘Passport rules for travel to Europe after Brexit’.

UK driving licence

EU citizens are currently permitted to drive using their existing standard licence if it has been issued from countries within the European Economic Area (EU plus Iceland, Norway and Lichtenstein). There is an obligation to exchange an EU driving licence after two years usual residence in a Member State.


If the UK exits the EU with a deal, it is likely that existing driving licence concessions between the EU and the UK will remain in place for the transition period.

No deal

In a no-deal scenario a UK driving licence may no longer be valid by itself when driving in the EU without an International Driving Permit [IDP]. The Government is seeking to ratify the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic. This would ensure that a traveller with a UK driving licence and IDP would be able to drive lawfully in the EU. According to the Department for Transport, the Government is trying “reach an agreement with the EU for mutual licence recognition after Brexit. Such a deal is in the interests of both sides and we remain confident of reaching such an agreement.” The Government has published guidance.

Motor insurance

In a no deal scenario, the Association of British Insurers (ABI) has advised that motorists will need to carry a physical Green Card while driving a UK registered vehicle in the EU/EEA. Green Cards are an international certificate of insurance issued by insurance providers in the UK, guaranteeing that a motorist has the necessary minimum motor insurance cover for driving in the country being travelled to. Motorists should contact their insurance provider directly to make any necessary arrangements.

Car hire

There are no specific EU rules on hiring cars. EU consumer rights apply when hiring a car in another EU country. However, access to the European Car Rental Conciliation Service (ECRCS) is restricted to EU residents.

Reciprocal health agreements

Under the negotiated Withdrawal Agreement, the UK Government aims to continue participating in the EU reciprocal healthcare arrangements, including European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC), during the transition period.

The UK Government acknowledges that “access to healthcare when visiting the EU/EEA and Switzerland may change if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.” Government advice addresses several important scenarios:


“If you have an EHIC issued by the UK, this will still be valid until 29 March 2019. It may not be valid after this date, depending on decisions by individual countries.”

Pre-existing health conditions

“If you have a pre-existing health condition, you should buy medical travel insurance before visiting countries in the EU/EEA or Switzerland. You must tell the insurance company about any health conditions you have, to make sure you can get the cover you need. If you have an EHIC, this will be valid until 29 March 2019 but may not be accepted after this date.

Ask your doctor in the UK for advice before you travel and make plans for how to manage your condition when you are abroad. You should also take your health condition identification or letter saying what medication you are taking.”

Agreement with Switzerland

“The UK has agreed a Citizens’ Rights Agreement with Switzerland in both a deal and a no-deal scenario.”

The UK Government “is seeking, agreements with countries in the EU/EEA and Switzerland on the continuation of healthcare arrangements for UK nationals after 29 March.”

Travel insurance

The ABI has stated that leaving the EU, whether with or without a deal, “is unlikely to lead to a meaningful change to terms and conditions” for travel insurance policies. It could lead to higher insurance costs in the longer term, depending on the outcome of negotiations.

However, it is important to note that if there is Brexit-related travel disruption, the insurance compensation arrangements will depend on each traveller’s individual policy. Some policies may not provide compensation for delays or cancellations that are caused by Brexit-related disruption.

Travellers should check with their insurer whether Brexit-related impacts are covered by their policy. If they are not, it might be possible to buy an add-on to provide the additional cover. 0

Package holidays

Travellers who have booked a package holiday with a UK travel company will be protected under the Package Travel Regulations. Under the regulations travellers have a right to a full refund or an alternative if their package holiday can no longer be provided.

The ABI provides more information on these matters.

Pet Travel

If there is a no-deal Brexit pet passports issued in the UK would not be valid for travel to the EU. Government advice is to contact a vet four months prior to any planned trip to an EU country

Note: The Library’s output should not be considered a substitute for professional legal advice, not least because it is a criminal offence for a person who is neither registered, authorised nor exempt to provide immigration or asylum advice or representation in the course of a business.

Please note that this Insight was updated on 18 March to include information on motor insurance.

About the authors: Andrew Haylen and Thomas Powell are Senior Library Clerks at the House of Commons Library. Fergal Davis is the House of Commons Library Brexit Editor.