European Commission recommends UK be placed on visa-exempt list of countries

British travellers will not need visas to visit the European Union for short stays even if there is a no-deal Brexit, the European Commission has said.

Commissioners made the recommendation to put the UK on the visa-exempt list at a meeting in Strasbourg on Tuesday. The policy is dependent on the UK continuing to offer reciprocal visa-free access for EU citizens.

Travel advice issued by the commission says: “The European Commission has proposed to the EU legislator to exempt UK nationals from visa requirements for short-term stays”.

The decision is still technically subject to confirmation by member states but is very unlikely to be overturned.
Etias – the EU Travel Information and Authorisation System – is modelled on the US Esta system and is being introduced on security grounds.

To what extent British citizens will have the right to work in the EU or move there long-term are separate to the question of travel visas; these questions will be settled as part of the future relationship negotiations between the EU and UK, expected to commence next year.

The move on visas is part of the EU’s intensified planning for a possible no-deal Brexit. In a statement, the European Commission said: “The European Commission has today proposed to grant UK citizens visa-free travel to the EU after the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the European Union.

“It would mean that UK citizens would not need a visa when travelling to the Schengen area for short stays of up to 90 days in any 180-day period. In the scenario where the UK leaves the EU without a deal, this would apply as of 30 March 2019. If a deal is reached, however, it would apply as of the end of the transition period, as outlined in the withdrawal agreement. This follows the commission’s continued commitment that citizens’ rights must come first in the negotiations on the UK’s withdrawal from the EU.

“This proposal is entirely conditional upon the UK also granting reciprocal and non-discriminatory visa-free travel for all EU member states, in line with the principle of visa reciprocity. The UK government has declared its intention not to require a visa from citizens of the EU27 member states for shorts stays for the purposes of tourism and business. EU rules on non-EU nationals travelling to the EU, such as those on border control, would of course apply to UK citizens once they are no longer EU citizens.”

The visa-free policy covers the 22 EU member countries that are members of the Schengen area and the four Schengen-associated states – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. It will also apply to Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus, which are outside Schengen but coordinate their policies with it.

The advice issued by the commission says holders of British driving licences may need a “green card” to drive in EU countries, and that they should check with the country they are visiting to see whether an international permit is required.

EU passenger rights to information, reimbursement, or compensation will also no longer apply to UK flights and carriers, as well as much sea, bus and rail travel.

The commission also says the European Health Insurance Card will no longer give UK citizens rights to reciprocal healthcare when abroad and that travellers should make arrangements to get private insurance.

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