By now you’ve no doubt heard the news: as of last week, the United Kingdom have voted to leave the European Union. This British exit (hence Brexit) from the EU was unexpected, and it means a lot for the future of politics and economics in Europe, The UK and abroad.
The question on the tip of the average traveller’s lips right now is ‘how does this affect my upcoming European holiday?’ Even if you don’t have a European trip on the radar, Brexit has certainly made a lot of Aussies wonder whether they actually should. Here’s a little AWOL explainer on how Brexit will affect travel in Europe.
What even is the EU?
The EU. Soooo, what exactly has that got to do with travel? Well the EU is the very important thing that makes it easier for us to backpack across Europe, criss-crossing boarders like they’re cracks in the pavement. Twenty-six of the 28 members of the EU are part of the Schengen zone, which means they have no border controls between them, which is why it’s bloody easy to catch a train between Italy, France and Germany, for instance.
The EU also facilitated the Euro currency coming into play in 1999, which now means you no longer needed Francs, Lira or Deutschmarks if you were travelling across Europe. Britain however, kept its wee ol’ Pound – which, after all this hubbub, has fallen to its lowest value level in 30 years.
So does this mean travel to the UK will be cheaper?
Short answer: yes. In the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, Aussie dollars are worth a lot more GBP (British pounds) than before. As of publication, one Aussie dollar is buying 0.55 GBP.
However, now probably isn’t the best time to invest in US dollars. The Aussie dollar took a big hit against the US dollar on Friday, dropping below 73.61 US cents, thanks to the unexpected Brexit result. As the future of the Brexit vote remains uncertain, right now might just be the perfect time to book your trip to the UK or nab some GBPs before the pound finds its way back up again.
But there’s a but!
Because the pound is down that means flying from the UK into Europe is going to be a little more expensive. If the Brexit goes ahead, flying from the UK to other EU countries will cost more due to the fact that the UK have left the ECAA (European Common Aviation Area).
Basically, the ECAA gives safe passage for airlines to travel over Europe – by having an EU membership, UK airlines had traffic rights across the continent. Any airline owned and controlled by EU members is free to operate anywhere within the EU without restrictions on capacity, frequency or pricing. So, by leaving the EU, some UK airline routes will be affected – while the exact repercussions are uncertain, there’s speculation it might mean different routes, delayed travel and inevitably higher rates.
In any case, consider flying in to another European city instead of passing through the UK to save yourself from inflated fares.
What happens with my UK passport? Am I screwed?
Not exactly. If you’re fortunate enough to have a UK passport in your possession, don’t panic just yet. For those Aussies with dual passports or ancestry visas living and working in Britain, there will be no changes. For those wanting to travel to Europe with their UK or Aussie passports, you’ll still be able to visit much of continental Europe without visas (as we do now) so crossing borders will be easy.
Speaking of crossing borders, yes, if you have a UK passport and Brexit goes ahead, the EU lettering on your passport will be worthless. This might mean longer customs lines if you’re travelling across Europe as you no longer get access to the uber-cool (and relatively shorter) EU queues.
Additionally, it does mean bad news for those wishing to work in Europe. Currently there’s a huge question mark over whether Aussies with UK passports will still be able to work without visas in any of the 27 EU countries. Previous to the vote, this was not an issue, but following the landmark call last week, it’s likely that loophole will change.
In any case, the effects of Brexit won’t be felt immediately, but it’s good to keep abreast of the situation if you’re headed to or thinking about heading to the UK and Europe in the future.