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5 EU travel protections Brits will lose in a no-deal Brexit

As a follow up to 5 travel laws all EU citizens should know about. This got me thinking about the consequences of a no-deal Brexit which looks ever-more likely. Here I present some other EU laws which we all take for granted but will disappear immediately if a no-deal Brexit happens.

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1. Recognition of UK Driving Licences

a close-up of a driving license

Currently driving licences issued by any EU member country is recognised by all others. This will come to a grinding halt overnight on 31st October when UK-issued driving licences will cease to be recognised within the EU. For the sake of clarity, It does not matter what nationality you are, it matters what licence you hold.

Drivers will need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) issued by the Post Office, and beware there are three types applicable to different countries within the EU. a 1926 Convention for use in Liechtenstein, There is the 1949 Geneva Convention version for driving in Ireland, Spain, Malta and Cyprus with a validity of 12 month, and there is the 1968 Vienna Convention version lasting 3 years for all other EU countries plus Norway and Switzerland.

In practical terms some countries, such as Ireland do not require foreign drivers which hold IDPs to carry them while driving, but this is a country-specific waiver and should be checked before you go. since Malta and Cyprus are island countries you will not end up accidentally crossing a border with an invalid licence at hand.

But if you ever cross the Portuguese-Spanish or Spanish-French or even Spanish-Andorran border then you will need to hold both versions of the IDP and pay twice. If you plan to visit Liechtenstein just park up in Austria or Switzerland and walk across!

Oh yes and don't forget the GB sticker on your car, because the EU symbol on your number plate will no longer apply either.

the back of a car with a white and red tail light
picture by Anwar2, licenced under creative commons 2.

2. Free calls and data roaming charges

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image from travsim.com


In summer 2017 UK telephone operators were finally bound by EU laws to abolish roaming charges when travelling. So if you have a UK mobile and travelled to Spain then you can call home or use the internet at exactly the same rates as you could back home. This has saved me hundred of pounds over the last couple of years (while also causing a bit of grief at one car rental company)

Once a cliff-edge Brexit happens don't be surprised to see the biggest network operators instantly slap roaming charges back. I mean, why would a for-profit enterprise waive free money instead of having an easy win for their shareholders?

3. European Health Insurance Card

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If you hold a European Health Insurance Card you are able to travel to any EU country and if you need any unplanned medical treatment in another EU country you will pay no more than a local resident there.

From no-deal Brexit day forwards you better make sure you have a good travel insurance ready because that's going to all be gone.


4. EU261 flight delay compensation if flying on British airline

a screen shot of a flight schedule
Image by Jason Tester, licenced under CC BY-ND 2.0

Currently all airlines departing the European Union must adhere to strict flight compensation rules in the even you arrive at your destination at least 3 hours late. However if you a travelling from a non-EU country to an EU destination then this only applies if the airline itself is registered in an EU country.

Therefore ALL flights departing the UK on British airlines (e.g. British Airways or Virgin), wherever their destination, will no longer be liable to pay you in the event of a delay that is their fault.


5. Right to protection by any other EU embassy

a building with columns and flags

If you are travelling to a country and ever get into trouble, e.g. you are raped, your partner strangled, get involved in a car crash, get kidnapped, etc. the first thing you must always do is notify the local embassy. However not all countries have a UK embassy in them and currently under EU laws you have the right to protection from any other EU country's embassy such an event.

No longer after B-day. If something bad happens to you in another country and this happens then good luck sorting it out by yourself.



  1. Ah the things we have to look forward to ! Thanks brexiteers for this sh*t show brought on by your little Englander mentality! Delusional!

    1. Agreed. Brexit has forced me out of my home country, but given the echo chamber of news there maybe it’s a good thing after all.

  2. For driving licences, I’m fairly sure our driving licences are recognised in a lot of non-EU countries, so I’d be surprised if we suddenly need something else to drive in Ireland!

    EU261 is in British law now, so we could change it if we wanted to, but not necessarily.

    And I don’t pay roaming charges in USA, Australia, Brazil and a variety of other countries as well as the EU, because I have a contract with 3. I would again be surprised if leaving the EU meant that they dropped that.

    1. Licences are recognised by non-EU countries through a series of UK-[country] treaties. But the recognition between UK-EU27 countries is based on EU directive 2006/126/EC which ceases to apply to UK. Until a new treaty applies it’s the IDP Geneva and Vienna conventions which apply.

      None of the big mobile operators have yet said they will maintain free roaming after B-day. Currently they are under no obligation to, but once one does I reckon all the rest will for competition reasons.

    2. That’s not what UK are telling us. I have been told by UK embassy that as I live in Portugal I must change my UK licence to a Portuguese one or I will have to sit a driving test after 29th March.
      This information is also clearly stated on the You Gov website. So no do not try to dive in Eu on a British licence after that date.

  3. What is written in 4. EU261 Flight Delay Compensation, is not correct. EU261 applies traveling either from a European Union airport; or traveling to a European Union airport on a European-based airline. If there is a “no-deal” Brexit, no UK airport will be a European Union airport, but all EU based airlines departing UK airports for EU destination airports will still be bound by EU261.

    The IAG group, which owns BA has been warned by the European Commission that its favored plans to continue flying freely in and around Europe in the event of a no-deal Brexit do not work, in a potentially serious setback for the owner of Aer Lingus, British Airways and Iberia. European carriers, need to show they are more than 50 per cent EU-owned and controlled to retain their flying rights in the bloc. Certain companies – including IAG – have yet to ensure they will reach that threshold after Brexit, when UK nationals will no longer count towards the tally. IAG’s center of opertaions, i.e. day to day control is in the UK but its complex registrations are in Spain, i.e. the EU.

    So, will the last one out please turn off the lights at BA!

    1. The subheading implied it was for British registered airlines but I agree reading it now it’s very confusing to omit that in the paragraph. Amending now.

  4. The data roaming situation is a red herring.
    Years before the EU legislation, I had free roaming charges in dozens of countries in and out of the EU with 3 network. Other mobile companies had similar schemes. When the EU legislation was introduced years later, it didn’t provide any additional benefit for me.

    The argument would be that mobile operators may be able revoke these benefits, but I for one would be surprised if they did.

    Today, mobile companies have the ability to ‘instantly slap roaming charges’ on all non-regulated countries, yet they don’t. In fact they are constantly adding countries (71 with three network). Why would that be? For competitive reasons perhaps?

    1. The article refers to the general rule which applies to all telecoms operators, and is correct. “3” is a specific operator offering advantageous subscription plans to its customers.

  5. What about formal qualifications from the UK, schools and universities? Will they no longer be recognised for working in the EU?

    1. I omitted qualifications because it’s less related to travel than the rest, but those cease to be an EU-wide directive and will be a country-to-country matter afterwards, much like driving licence recognition. Many UK professional bodies have already started signing mutual recognition agreements with other EU countries to anticipate this matter.

  6. Are US driving licenses eligible for international status…And if so would it be valid in Portugal and how would one apply?

    1. What do you mean by “International Status”? Anything outside of Portugal is international in this context!

      From what I am aware if you are a US driving licence holder then you need to use an International Driving Permit in Portugal.

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