The government will not accept EU rules as part of a trade deal with the EU.
Prime minister Boris Johnson spelled that out on Monday in a speech outlining the UK’s negotiating position after Britain left the EU on Friday.
But this position was immediately rejected by EU chief negotiator Michael Barnier who insisted a deal would depend on the UK agreeing “specific guarantees to ensure a level playing field”.
The exchange set the scene for months of tortuous negotiations up to the end of the year, with the Brexit transition due to end on December 31.
Until then no aspect of travel to and from the EU will change. Rules on passports, driving licences, access to healthcare and travelling with pets remain as now. UK passport holders can also continue to use EU passport lanes at airports.
The government has clarified that anyone entering an EU member state on December 31 this year will remain entitled to use their European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for the duration of their stay.
However, aspects of travel to the EU will change from the start of 2021 without an extension of the Brexit transition – something the government has already ruled out.
Most important, flights, ferries, rail and bus services won’t change.
The government confirmed last week that from January 1: “Flights, ferries and cruises, the Eurostar and Eurotunnel [and] bus and coach services between the UK and EU will be able to run as before.”
It also confirmed: “Airport security procedures will not change for direct flights to and from the UK [and] there should not be delays at airport security if you change flights in EU airports.”
However, UK travellers may be required to use separate lanes at airports and be subject to questioning at border control – asked to show tickets and prove they have money for their stay in the EU.
In practice, this will depend on individual member states and airports. Some countries, such as Portugal, have already promised special lanes to speed up UK arrivals.
UK travellers to the EU from next January will also be subject to several new requirements. They will need at least six months on a UK passport when they travel, and passports must be less than 10 years old – although these rules exclude Ireland.
The government advises those travelling from January 1: “Check your passport – you may need to renew your passport earlier; get travel insurance that covers healthcare; check you have the right driving documents; [and] organise pet travel.”
It warns EHIC cards “might not be valid” from January 1; “you may need extra documents” for driving and “an international driving permit (IDP) to drive”; and the existing pet passport scheme will no longer apply.
Those driving their own vehicle will also need a green card from their motor insurance company and a GB sticker on the car.
The government notes: “Your consumer rights will not change from January 1.” But it advises: “Check before you leave for any delays or disruption.”
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