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Brexit - travellers and consumers

The word Brexit stands for "British Exit" and means the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the EU. A hard Brexit was the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union, the European Single Market and the Customs Union without a treaty with the EU. At the last minute, so to speak, a so-called "soft" Brexit was negotiated on 24 December 2020 and a free trade agreement was concluded.

This ended the transition period from 2020, where the UK had already formally left the Union, but the previous EU regulations were still valid. With the end of the transition period by the end of 2020, the United Kingdom has effectively left the EU and not just on paper, but issues such as access to the European single market, the customs union and the Northern Ireland question have been settled.

The Trade and Partnership Agreement

The agreement reached covers not only trade in goods and services, but also a whole range of other areas of EU interest, such as investment, competition, state aid, tax transparency, air and road transport, energy and sustainability, fisheries, data protection and coordination of social security systems. It provides for zero tariffs and zero quotas for all goods that comply with the relevant rules of origin and contains declarations of intent on environmental and social standards. Due to the urgency, the agreement is provisionally valid until 28 February 2021 by decree of the EU Commission, before it is ratified by the EU Parliament and can be adopted unanimously by the EU Council (of all member states).

Pictogram about "Brexit"

Brexit

Important before departure

In the referendum on 23 June 2016, 52 percent of Britons voted in favour of Brexit. Negotiations between the European Union and the United Kingdom were slow and the regulations in the trade agreement are confusing in practical application for the time being.

Those wishing to travel are confronted with a number of questions.
Do I need additional insurance? What fees might I have to pay? What protection do I have if problems arise during the trip? Or I have an accident and need to go to hospital? You can click through this English-language online questionnaire from the UK government and get advice on the applicable regulations in relevant areas.

These questions are important. Below we briefly explain what you need to consider when planning a trip to the UK.

The Federal Government has set up a dedicated Brexit hotline for specific enquiries: +43 (0) 800 222 666 (toll-free from all over Austria) Service hours: Monday to Friday, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. (weekdays) or by e-mail: service@bka.gv.at

Outside these hours, the hotline of the Citizens' Service, which deals with emergencies of Austrians abroad around the clock, is recommended for urgent enquiries: +43 (0) 50 11 50-4411

Travel formalities

British nationals

  • do not need a visa for journeys of up to 90 days within a period of 180 days.
  • are no longer allowed to use the separate border checkpoints for EU citizens.
  • also need a return ticket and must be able to prove that they have sufficient funds for their stay in the EU.
  • must have a British passport valid for at least six months.
  • must have a veterinary certificate for animals carried, the British pet passport is no longer valid in the EU.
  • British nationals living in Austria can find more information here.

EU-Citizens

  • can visit the UK without a visa for a maximum stay of six months.
  • must present a valid passport to enter the UK.
  • must declare cash in excess of €10000 (or other currency equivalent) up to 72 hours before travel.
  • must have a veterinary certificate for accompanied pets.

Air travel

There should be no disruption to air travel as there are agreements between the EU and the UK for this which will continue to apply after 1.1.2021. For flights from the EU or operated by a European airline, you will continue to be protected by EU passenger rights. For flights from the UK or operated by UK airlines, UK law applies. However, this currently mirrors the European rules.

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travel by plane

Package Travel

Provided you have made a reservation with a European provider, you are covered in the event of problems (e.g. defects on site or insolvency of the hotel). These EU rights do not apply if you book with a British tour operator who does not orientate his activity towards Austria, i.e. does not advertise his offer in this country. Additional insurance may be necessary.

The EU Package Travel Directive has been implemented in UK law to date and this area has not been changed since 1.1.2021 to date. This means that a package holiday booked with a British organiser must still be insured against insolvency.
 

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package deal

Cruises and travel by ship

You will continue to be protected by EU passenger rights in the event of delays or cancellations of ferries from the EU to the UK, or if you are travelling with an EU operator or taking a cruise from the UK. For all other cases, British law applies, although it is currently (still) in line with European rules.

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vacation

Health insurance

  • Statutory health insurance
    You cannot continue to use the European Health Insurance Card EHIC, which is on the back of your e-card, in the UK after 1/1/2021. If you are going to be temporarily in the UK after 31.12.2020, it is essential that you contact your relevant health insurance provider in good time so that they can issue you with a "Provisional Replacement Certificate (PEB)". This is currently recognised by UK benefit providers and NHS healthcare will then cover benefits in kind (doctor visits) and hospital stays. This also applies to those for whom the temporary stay has already started in 2020 and continues over the turn of the year.
  • Private health insurance
    Although nothing has changed in principle with the UK's withdrawal from the EU, it is advisable to consult with the insurance company before travelling to clarify the period of validity and scope of cover. Many private health insurances only cover up to a stay abroad of one month, so clarify this before the trip!
Pictogram about "health emergency abroad"

health emergency abroad

Driving in the UK

You can use your driving licence in the UK. However, you should check that your insurance cover is sufficient. If you are entering the UK by car via ferry or the Eurotunnel, make sure you have your motor insurance green card or other proof of insurance for your vehicle if it is registered in another EU country. If your vehicle is registered in Austria, you should at least carry the insurance certificate. The certificate must contain information about the registration number, period of insurance and insurance carrier, otherwise you may be fined and even have your vehicle confiscated by the police.

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rental car insurance

Digital services and roaming

  • Roaming
    For the time being, no roaming charges have been introduced. If your EU-based mobile operator is preparing additional charges for calls, SMS and mobile data usage for customers who are in the UK, it must inform them in a timely manner.
  • Geoblocking
    The EU regulation on geo-blocking prohibits discrimination against EU customers based on their nationality, place of residence or place of business. This requirement also applies to online traders in third countries who sell their goods in the European Union, so that these rights also apply to EU citizens when buying online. Relevant for the application of geo-blocking rights is therefore whether the UK company also offers the services in the EU or only in the UK.
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roaming

Travel by train

For the part of your journey that is within the EU, EU rail passenger rights apply in the event of a delay or cancellation. Likewise, the British rules apply to the British part of the journey. In principle, passenger rights have remained unchanged since 1 January 2021, as the EU rules have been incorporated into the UK law that now applies to rail travel. If you are planning to travel on the Eurostar high speed train, check online for the latest timetable changes.

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travel by train

Card payments

Great Britain still wants to ban additional fees for payment by credit card, following the EU model. Find out in advance from your bank about the conditions for a payment in third countries and always pay in the local currency.

Be careful when withdrawing cash from ATMs in the UK! If you withdraw with an ATM or debit card, there is usually a charge of €5 to €10. If you withdraw with a credit card, the fees are usually between 1.75 and 4% of the amount. Withdrawals are particularly expensive if you forget to deselect DCC (Dynamic Curreny Conversion), which often gives you money at up to 13% below the current daily rate in pounds. There are special travel credit cards offered by financial service providers that allow fee-free withdrawals.

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payment method

Travel by coach

Bus passenger rights will continue to apply after Brexit. This applies to passengers travelling to the UK by long-distance bus (so-called regular services have fixed stops and timetables) or travelling to the EU from there. Provided the point of departure or arrival is in the EU and the journey distance is at least 250 km. According to the UK government, bus passenger rights will be transposed into UK law after Brexit.

Therefore, if you buy a ticket from a UK operator that does not meet the above criteria, journeys may be cancelled or you may have to change buses at the border. European passenger rights apply to the section of the journey in the EU, and British passenger rights apply to the section in England.

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travel by coach

Erasmus

The UK has decided to stop participating in the popular EU student exchange programme and start its own programme. This means that EU students will no longer be able to spend a semester abroad in the UK through Erasmus+. The exception is students from Northern Ireland, who are still eligible for Erasmus+.

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term abroad

Shopping and ordering

  • No tariffs - but still obstacles and price increases to be expected

Under the agreement, goods traded between the UK and EU countries are not subject to tariffs or import quotas. However, goods will be checked at EU borders for compliance with internal market rules (e.g. on health, safety, social and environmental standards) or applicable UK legislation. This means more bureaucracy and additional costs, which companies often pass on to customers in the price. Thus, customs formalities must be completed and EU standards met for all imports into the Union. Goods moving between Northern Ireland and the EU are exempt.

 

  • Different offers - delivery possible?

British companies no longer have an automatic right to offer services throughout the EU. If they want to continue to operate in the EU, they must establish themselves there. Customers should pay attention to whether company offers online are also valid for EU citizens or have been created exclusively for British customers. Indications of this are payment methods (currency), language in which the offers are written and delivery terms. Read the terms of service of the British company before you make a purchase!

Shopping online

Have you ordered something online from a UK retailer after 1.1.2021? You should consider the following: Have you seen an advertisement for the product in your country or has the advertisement been placed for a UK audience?

  • Is the online shop translated into German, can you pay in euros and is it clear that the offer is aimed at foreigners? If yes, then you benefit from European consumer protection rights, i.e. a 14-day right of withdrawal with reimbursement of costs, as well as two years of legal warranty. Furthermore, you are protected against unfair business practices such as misleading advertising.
  • The British trader does not direct its activities to Austria, but you have accessed the website independently and it is not available in German? We advise you to read the T&Cs carefully to check whether the European or British protection provisions apply to you and whether they ship to Austria at all and at what additional cost.
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shopping online

Exemptions from duty-free regime

The provisions on duty-free treatment in the FTA are strongly guided by the rules of origin. These concern the "economic nationality", so to speak, of goods made from components and materials of foreign origin. There are therefore rules on the extent to which the product must be manufactured or processed in the EU or the UK so that manufacturers from third countries cannot abuse this free trade agreement in order to avoid paying customs duties. This means that tax and duty exemptions will no longer apply to goods sold in the UK that were not mainly processed there and were, for example, imported from China and only resold.

Goods with a value of more than € 22 are subject to import VAT in Austria. Customs duty must also be paid on goods with a value of € 150 or more. The amount of customs duty depends on the goods themselves, the value and the country of origin of the goods. You can find more information here
If you are wondering whether a specific UK item is dutiable, you can call the Austrian Customs Office.

Also be aware of both UK and Austrian import restrictions on tobacco or alcohol products and other goods (e.g. perfume) if you are carrying such goods personally. The UK also has allowances for gifts and souvenirs subject to VAT on importation, depending on the means of transport (£270-390).

 

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customs

Financial and investment services

British providers are no longer allowed to operate in the EU unless they have a European branch. The European Banking Authority has asked the companies concerned to inform their customers whether their contract will remain in force, whether and what changes are necessary and whether their contact person will change. If your contractual partner sends you new GTC, be sure to read them carefully! Are the conditions worse than before? If you have any questions or are in doubt, contact your service provider.

The current free trade agreement does not contain an agreement on the equivalence framework for financial services. From now on, financial services are therefore unilateral offers to which both contracting parties have agreed. As these are not covered by the FTA, EU clients are no longer entitled to equivalence with UK clients.

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monetary transactions

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