Canadians Need Not Fear Travel in Post-Brexit Europe

If you plan to visit Britain or continental Europe in the near future, there’s no reason to make any significant changes to your itinerary due to Brexit concerns.

Aside from the political noise coming out of Europe after Britain announced it had decided to leave the European Union, there should be no immediate impact on you—except that you’ll be getting more for bang of your buck thanks to a sharp drop in the value of the British pound. Some airlines have already reduced fares, hotels may follow, and other tourism-related entities can’t ignore the demand for competitively priced locations and activities. These are all good things for you.

However, although Britain has been a member of the EU since 1973, she was never fully invested in that community just 20 miles from her shore. She held on to her own sterling currency, and though her citizens travelled with a health insurance card that allowed them “free” health care services while on the Old Continent, Britain and Ireland never joined the “borderless” Schengen travel agreement that most Europeans now take for granted. (Schengen is the name of the town in Luxembourg where the agreement was originally signed by a small group of European countries in 1985. Since then, membership has grown to 26 countries.)

Let’s explain that further. Citizens of Schengen countries can move from country to country without encountering customs and border barriers, or even showing their passports. In addition, many non-Europeans, among them Canadian and American citizens, are not required to show their passports or endure customs pat-downs once they have entered the Schengen zone (although they are required to show their passport when first entering any of the Schengen countries).

Thus, if the first stop on your European tour is Britain, you will not only have to present your passport at Heathrow, Gatwick, or other British airport entries, but you’ll have to show it again, and go through the usual customs procedures, once you land in the “real” Europe.

Had Britain chosen to stay in the EU, over time she may well have been compelled to join Schengen as well as the Euro currency zone. But that is now history.

If Brexit ultimately leads other countries to break free of the EU, you can expect passport and other documentation requirements to be re-imposed. But that is not an immediate threat and will not impact you this year. (Several EU countries temporarily imposed border controls early this year in response to the migration waves from Syria, North Africa, and beyond.)

Nonetheless, you need to stay abreast of government advisories concerning travel to any part of Europe, particularly any changes in document requirements. And also keep an eye on currency fluctuations, as numerous financial experts say it will take many months for the GBP to recover from its Brexit losses. That could be to your benefit as the loonie continues to strengthen.

Also, keep your passport up to date and easily accessible when travelling from country to country, stay up to date on government travel advisories, and ensure you have proper proof of travel insurance, since some countries in Europe are requiring such proof as a condition of entry.

 

Stay with us and we’ll keep you updated on these developments.

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