Got your Passport, but Confused about Brexit?

If you’ve never heard the word “Brexit”—be grateful. But if you are a traveller with a Canadian or US passport, and you’re heading to the UK or anywhere in Europe, you may want to review a few ground rules.

Regardless what happens in the cage-fight between Britain and the EU, in the short run it will have no effect on you as a traveller. What happens in the long run is anybody’s guess, but for the next few months at least you need make no alterations to your plans.

As the holder of a valid passport (preferably with at least six months left before it expires) you will still be able to travel freely to any part of Britain (or Ireland) and most countries of Europe. If you go to Britain and continue on to Europe, you will need your passport for each entry.


What is Schengen?

Even the Brits need their passport to fly to France, Hungary or Italy. This is because, though all are EU countries, the British are not part of the Schengen area (which is a consortium of European countries that in 1985 agreed to allow document-free travel within member nations—of which there are now 26). The Schengen zone (named after the town of its birth in Luxembourg) encompasses most of the EU except the UK and Ireland. And though Norway, Switzerland, Lichtenstein and Iceland are not members of the EU, they are part of Schengen. Romania, Bulgaria, Croatia and Cyprus are in line to join Schengen too.

What this means is that if you’re heading anywhere into the Schengen area, you just need to use your passport once—on entry. After that you can travel border-control-free through the remaining countries of the zone, at least theoretically. Some of these countries have over the past few years imposed temporary border control restrictions to limit the refugee migrations that have burdened most of Europe. And they can do so again, if they feel threatened, so you’ll still need to have your passport handy wherever you go.

But, depending upon the country through which you choose to enter the Schengen zone, you may also be asked for proof of private travel insurance, at least as much as €30,000 worth. Check the exit/entry requirements of each country you intend to travel through on the government of Canada’s website.

Though it is still possible for Brits to receive free emergency medical care in other EU countries on a reciprocal basis with their EHIC (European Health Insurance card), many carry additional private insurance as medical costs in Europe are very expensive. What happens to British access to EU services if there is no peaceable Brexit is still up in the air, but so far as you’re concerned, there is no health care service reciprocity between Europe, Canada or the US (except for Quebecers, who have some reciprocal treaty arrangements with certain European countries).

If you’re concerned about travel between Ireland and Northern Ireland (the so-called backstop issue in the Brexit melee), there is no way of knowing right now if you may at some future time be required to have a passport to cross that border. We’ll tell you when we know.


And then there is travel insurance

Because Canada has extensive visa waiver agreements with many countries of the world, you’ll not need visas for any countries within the EU or the UK. But travel insurance is another matter, whether it’s required for border control purposes or not. Europe contains some of the highest medical costs in the world: as high as Canada’s. If we ever retrace the era when Canadian provinces paid foreign medical bills as they got them (they used to at one point—but now they don’t even pay one-tenth of the charges billed) we’ll certainly let you know. But until then, having travel insurance is a non-negotiable issue.

Travel freely, travel blissfully. We cover Canadian Travellers with travel medical insurance and non-medical travel insurance such as trip cancellation, trip interruption, and baggage worldwide. We’ve got it all taken care of. For more information, visit, call us at 1-800-360-3234 or email us at

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