Following the UK’s decision to leave the EU in the referendum held on June 23rd 2016, there were years of uncertainty about what regulations would be in place concerning the movement of goods and people to and from the UK, after the state had officially left the EU.
After tortuous negotiations, the UK officially left the EU on January 31st 2020, and a formal agreement on trade, travel, and other areas was signed on December 30th 2020, before coming into force on May 1st 2021.
It is this agreement which dictates the current rules on trade and travel with the UK after Brexit.
For centuries, the UK has been a popular destination for tourists, students, and professionals from around the world. And many British people view tourism, foreign travel, and holidays abroad as a treat to be routinely enjoyed whenever possible. Indeed, some Brits regard road trips and long expeditions abroad as somewhat of a rite of passage.
While Brexit will certainly not put an end to these things, it has made them a little more complicated – at least in the short term.
The regulations and restrictions introduced by Brexit have also led to certain bureaucracies and administrative challenges that must be navigated in order to trade with the UK.
Let’s take a look at some of the new rules regarding travel to and from the UK for work, tourism, or study purposes.
Coming In And Going Out
Anyone seeking to travel either in or out of the UK post-Brexit should first check the relevant section of the gov.uk website to identify what specific regulations will apply to them.
For most people though – no matter where they are in the world – they can visit the UK for tourism, work, or study purposes for up to 6 months. There are, however, some terms and conditions attached to this.
For example, visitors to the UK cannot:
– Marry or enter a civil partnership
– Claim benefits
– Work for a UK business (in either a paid or unpaid capacity), nor may they do self-employed work
– Visit for the 6 month period too frequently, or with too short a gap between visits
Additionally, to be eligible for entry to the UK, visitors will likely have to show that:
– They will leave the UK at the end of their visit
– They will have the available funds to support themselves and any dependents during their time in the UK
– Will be able to pay for their return journey to their home country
– Will not make the UK their main home, or visit frequently for extended periods
Note that visitors to the UK from certain countries will need to apply for a visa before they are allowed entry. However, on the gov.uk website it is easy to apply for a Standard Visitor visa that lasts for up to 6 months, and the processing fee of £100 will be affordable for most travellers.
For citizens of the EU, European Economic Area (EEA), and Switzerland, it is not necessary to obtain a visa before travelling to the UK for up to 6 months.
Are you unsure if your country is covered by the terms of this agreement? As of May 2022, the following countries are EU member states:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Republic of Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, and Sweden.
In addition, Iceland, Liechtenstein, and Norway are not members of the EU, but are part of the EEA.
Switzerland is not an EU or EEA member but is part of the single market. This means Swiss nationals have the same rights to live and work in the UK as other EEA nationals.
Citizens of the Republic of Ireland have an additional privilege afforded to them – they can continue to enter, live, and work in the UK without time limits or other restrictions, in the same way that they could prior to Brexit.
An Uncertain Agreement And Coming Changes?
When the Withdrawal Agreement between the UK and the EU was signed, it was hoped that this would signal the end of a long period of uncertainty and confusion.
However, after only a matter of months, the complicated and controversial parts of the Withdrawal Agreement that relate to Northern Ireland – and to the province’s working relationship with the EU while still being part of the United Kingdom – have caused discontent on the British side of the equation, and certain elements of the discord have even led to discussions of whether Northern Ireland is likely to leave the UK in the coming decades, in order to reunite with the Republic of Ireland.
Amid these tensions, some within the British government are seeking to renegotiate the Withdrawal Agreement, or even to unilaterally override it.
This may well be an issue that continues to drag on for many years, and at this time it is uncertain what will happen to the existing uneasy arrangement that dictates the terms of UK-EU trade and travel.
Therefore, depending on how this situation is resolved, the rules and regulations that govern who and what can enter and leave the UK – and how long for – may look rather different in the coming years.