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17 Dec 2020

Brexit: how travel, shopping and your money could change if no deal is agreed

What you need to know to be prepared for the end of the transition period
Cars waiting to board the channel ferry at Dover

The UK's transition from EU membership ends on 31 December, and a new deal is yet to be agreed.

Although the UK formally left the EU on 1 January this year, rules were kept the same during the Brexit transition period.

The transition period ends on 31 December, meaning that any UK-EU deal would have to be agreed and put into effect by then.

Whether a deal is agreed or not, your holidays, consumer rights and finances will be affected.

With a deal yet to be agreed, here we explain what to expect if a UK-EU trade deal hasn't been signed when the transition period ends.

Will I need to replace my passport to travel without a deal?

You will need at least six months' validity left on your passport when you're travelling to an EU member state, with the exception of Ireland, where existing rules apply.

UK nationals will not need a visa for short stays in an EU country from 1 January 2021 for many purposes, for example to visit family, to attend events or as a tourist. You will be able to stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

You won't be able to use EU lanes or electronic gates to enter EU countries at border control.

Due to the EU's COVID-19 regulations, British citizens would be barred from entering the EU for non-essential trips after 31 December, without a deal. However, individual EU countries can choose their own approach.

Check the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office website for updates on entry requirements.

How could a no-deal affect flights?

Flights are unlikely to be cancelled or delayed. If they are, you're protected by UK passenger rights - for flights departing the UK, or operated by UK airlines - or EU passenger rights.

Luckily, these rules are currently the same, although they could change in the long-term. You can read about your flight rights here.

For train, bus and ferry journeys you'll still be covered by UK or EU passenger rights, depending on where you are.

Package holidays will still be protected, providing the provider is UK-based, or specifically targets UK customers.

Will I need an International Driving Permit or Green Card?

If you're driving in the EU - whether in your own vehicle or a rental car - you will need an International Driving Permit.

You can get one of these in-person for £5.50 from the Post Office - bring your current driving licence and a passport-quality photo.

If you're taking your own car to Europe, ask your insurer for a Green Card, which shows you're insured in the case of any incidents. Insist on a printed copy, as the paper itself needs to be green. Some insurers may charge for this.

You'll also need a GB sticker on your car.

Will my EHIC still work?

Your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will not be valid after 31 December, which means travel insurance is essential.

You can find our guide to picking a travel insurance policy here.

Your insurer should let you know if there will be any changes to the way your policy is serviced that will affect you after the UK leaves the EU.

Make sure that your travel insurance covers any pre-existing medical conditions you may have. If you're struggling to find insurers who will cover you, use the Money Advice Service's directory of specialist insurers.

If you have ongoing treatment needs - such as dialysis - you may be able to get this for free abroad in 2021. The government has set up a temporary scheme for UK residents travelling to the European Economic Area of Switzerland - read more here.

Will my bank account, pensions or investment be affected?

If you have a bank account, pension or investment account with an EU provider, these should continue to operate if the operator meets the new conditions set by the government. The provider should make this clear to you.

The Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS) will continue to protect your savings or investments up to £85,000 per person, per institution, if the provider goes bust. EU equivalents to the FSCS will also continue to operate.

Some British expats in the EU have had their UK bank accounts closed.

Those with pensions or investments, whether in the UK or abroad, may find their value changes rapidly due to considerable volatility in the stock markets.

It's important not to make any immediate decisions - selling while the market is low could prove very costly. Also stay alert for scammers making the most out of the disruption.

Will I still be able to shop online with EU retailers?

You will still be able to buy online from EU retailers after 1 January, but be aware that you might find it tougher to resolve problems in the event of a dispute.

EU law guarantees the same 14 days to return an unwanted online order as UK law, but you won't be able to access the EU's dispute resolution scheme. It is likely you'll no longer be able to take them to court in the UK.

Section 75 protection will still apply. This means that if you buy a product or service worth between £100-£30,000 with your credit card, and it's not delivered, you can claim the money back from your card provider.

What would no deal mean for food prices?

A failure to agree a trade deal would mean that UK tariffs would apply to foods imported from the EU.

According to the British Retail Consortium (BRC), some grocery items could attract a tariff as high as 57%.