Passport requirements and travel insurance advice after Brexit
With the prospect of a no-deal Brexit looming, what does that mean for planning a family holiday this year?
If the cold dreary January weather has led to thoughts of summer sun there may be a few more things you need to factor into this year's plans.
Following a crushing defeat of the Prime Minister's Brexit deal the future remains uncertain, but if the UK does indeed plough ahead with plans to leave the European Union on March 29, there is expected to be some changes to travel advice and passport requirements.
The Home Office, holiday companies and travel providers are already preparing customers to ensure they understand what may be required for travel to Europe come the spring.
We take a look at the current advice and investigate what families need to know before booking.
Will I have to renew my passport?
"In the event of the UK leaving the EU without a deal, new rules will apply" says the Home Office.
And the biggest change is likely to be to the time left on passports.
At present most European countries as well as America, Australia and Canada will allow travel if the time left on a passport is valid for the length of your stay.
But holidaymakers are being told with Brexit on the horizon that passports may need renewing earlier than planned and anyone booking foreign travel must factor this in.
Holders will need to ensure they have at least six months left on their passport from the date of arrival and this applies to both adult and child passports.
And there is a word of warning. If you last renewed a passport before it expired, the extra months which may have been added to your new passport’s expiry date may not count towards the six months that should be remaining on the document for travel to most countries in Europe.
To help passengers be confident their passport will be valid there is an online tool to help check the time remaining on a passport and it can be found at www.passport.service.gov.uk/check-a-passport
Renewing a passport
Families who find less than six months on any of their passports will need to renew ahead of travel - something which the government first warned about towards the end of last year.
The Home Office has declined to comment on whether this change has now increased the numbers applying for a new passport or lengthened waiting times for new documents but the advice continues to be the same - that people should not book travel unless the passport they have meets the entry requirements of the country they are travelling to.
What about the European Health Insurance Card?
Although holidaymakers are always advised to take out comprehensive travel insurance many travelers also make use of an EHIC, which gives you the right to access state-provided healthcare during a temporary stay in another European Economic Area. The EHIC also covers the treatment of pre-existing medical conditions and routine maternity care, provided the reason for your visit is not specifically to give birth or seek treatment.
It will not cover any private medical healthcare or costs, such as mountain rescue in ski resorts, being flown back to the UK, or lost or stolen property. It is also not valid on cruises.
But as with so many other aspects of Brexit, the future of the card hangs in the balance if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
And while the card has never been an alternative to a travel insurance policy, the potential for it to come to an end highlights how important taking out comprehensive travel insurance for your entire party when booking a trip may now be.
Will my trip go ahead?
Despite the uncertainty, holiday companies say they are fully prepared for Brexit and are already starting to prepare customers for any potential changes.
Eurotunnel, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year, has called on the government to clarify the nature of the border relationship and controls that will exist between the United Kingdom and the European Union, as soon as possible but says it is already preparing for all outcomes with the 'full support' of its 2,500 employees.
In a statement the cross-channel operator said: "We have adapted our infrastructure so that, with or without a deal, traffic flow through the Tunnel will be maintained.
"Eurotunnel is currently working to ensure that new post-Brexit border controls will have no significant impact on Tunnel traffic. As our history shows, when the Tunnel was opened in 1994, lorries passed through only three types of check, compared to eight separate controls today. This increase in the level of controls over time has not prevented truck traffic from increasing fourfold over the same period between 1994 and 2018."
Dan Bridgett, Head of Communications at P&O Ferries, said it too was fully prepared for the coming months and had been liasing closely with authorities.
He said: "As long as there are goods and people travelling between the UK and Europe, P&O Ferries will continue to provide a comprehensive ferry and logistics service to and from the continent. We have been engaging closely with the authorities on both sides and they have given us to understand that they are fully aware of the economic and commercial importance of the free flow of traffic across their borders.
"We expect them to act to mitigate the impact of any reintroduced customs and sanitary controls so that our customers can continue to rely on our services for the import and export of vital goods.”
TUI has an entire section of its website dedicated to Britain's planned exit from the EU and covers subjects such as will flights still operate, potential visa requirements in the event that Britain leaves the EU and is there a risk that holidays may not go ahead.
The company, which says it plans to operate all holidays to all destinations including those in Europe, is also following government advice and reminding holidaymakers they must play close attention to passports should some need to be renewed earlier than usual.
*For the latest and most up-to-date travel information and passport advice please visit the government's dedicated website www.gov.uk/guidance/passport-rules-for-travel-to-europe-after-brexit