British holidaymakers will be barred from the EU from 1 January as the European commission has indicated there will be no exemption for the UK from Covid-19 safety restrictions, apart from for Northern Ireland residents travelling to the Republic of Ireland. What does it all mean for Britons with a holiday booked in 2021 – or sooner?
How much of an impact will this have?
On the face of it, this is not great news. However, it’s important to note that the Foreign Office is still advising against all nonessential travel to most of mainland Europe, bar a few holiday destinations such as certain Greek islands.
This means relatively few people have holidays booked in the early part of 2021, as in most cases travel insurance is invalid. It also gives popular European tourist destinations time to consider their options (see below).
I am due to travel in December: does this affect me?
No, this only becomes an issue after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December. You can still travel until then, albeit with the existing restrictions and the quarantine requirements when you return.
What about the February half-term ski rush – or city breaks?
Arguably this is the next big getaway, but it was already looking highly unlikely to go ahead as normal – for UK residents at least. Most European ski resorts are closed – or open only to locals – and look set to remain so for the February half-term.
However, if the Foreign Office changes its travel advice between now and then and EU resorts open up, Britons could find themselves turned away at borders.
British residents planning a city break to, say, Lisbon could also find themselves turned away until the EU lifts its Covid ban on non-residents arriving for tourism – unless Portugal offered Brits a “travel corridor”, as seen in the summer.
I am booked to travel in spring: have I lost the money I spent on the trip, or am I insured?
If you have booked a package ski or other similar holiday (a flight and hotel package), the tour operator will have to cancel the trip and you will be entitled to a full refund. Anyone who booked their own ski or other trips – driving themselves or flying to the Alps, and booking their own accommodation – will almost certainly find that their travel insurance will not cover them for cancellation.
Even Insurefor.com, the company that bills itself as the insurer prepared to cover those willing to travel in the face of the Foreign Office advice, says customers are not covered for cancellation if they are refused entry to a country because of a Covid-related restriction.
How will this be resolved?
Abta, which represents the travel industry, says the European council’s proposal is only a recommendation and that individual countries are able to implement their own measures, including options such as travel corridors and testing.
If by Easter infection or immunisation rates in the UK are better – or no worse – than EU destinations, it is likely that some EU countries will unilaterally decide to allow UK tourists to come, in an attempt to save the tourist industry, with others soon following suit.
An Abta spokesperson said: “It is too early to say what restrictions might be in place on 1 January, given the uncertain nature of the pandemic, but we know that UK travellers are hugely important to a number of EU destinations, including some winter sun favourites like the Canary Islands and Madeira.”
Is this all because of Brexit?
Yes. The fact that we are leaving the EU means that we join countries such as Albania and Turkey when it comes to entering the EU. On Thursday morning the Netherlands announced that all non-EU citizens would have to show a negative Covid-19 test result when entering the country by air or sea. This will affect British tourists from 1 January onwards. Arguably we can expect more of this in the coming months.