The UK’s Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU provides “stability in many policy areas Abta has prioritised”, but leaves significant issues for the travel sector unresolved.
That is according to Abta director of public affairs Luke Petherbridge who welcomed the agreement but described it as “a lean deal” that “will bring change”.
However, Petherbridge said: “Crucially, it means there is a basis for further talks to resolve outstanding issues.”
Writing for Travel Weekly Business:am, Petherbridge notes air and coach transport links between the UK and EU were set to continue “with minimal disruption” anyway due to contingency legislation and the UK joining the Interbus Agreement from January 1.
Yet he notes a relaxation of EU rules on airline ownership and control, which require an EU airline to be 51% owned by EU nationals, will allow carriers operating intra-EU routes prior to the end of the Brexit transition to continue.
He also notes the Trade and Cooperation Agreement includes provisions for “occasional” coach services to pass through the EU to reach a third country such as Switzerland – “something Abta has been pressing government officials and ministers on”.
Petherbridge points out access to healthcare in the EU “has been a key priority for Abta” so “we’re pleased UK travellers can still use their European Health Insurance [EHIC] Cards up to their existing expiry date” and then apply for a Global Health Insurance Card.
However, he warns: “Travelling to Europe will be different from now on.
“There are additional steps customers will need to take” such as checking passports will be valid, and “businesses will need to adapt their operations in significant areas” include financial protection and financial services where companies sell within the European Economic Area (EEA).
Important issues also remain unresolved, including the lack of provisions to replace the EU Posted Workers Directive (PWD).
Petherbridge describes the loss of the directive as “a big blow” and says provisions within the trade deal fall “far short of replicating” its benefits, when “up to 20,000 people a year from the UK work in seasonal jobs under the PWD”.
He pledges: “Agreements with EU member states to build upon the provisions, bilaterally or through national immigration regimes, will be a priority for Abta going forward.”