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11 Dec 2020

Can British holidaymakers travel to the European Union after Brexit?

Covid crisis means that most non-EU nationals are barred from holiday travel

From 1 January 2021 freedom of movement ends and there is no longer an automatic right for British citizens to travel in the European Union (EU).

The EU does not currently allow holidaymakers from outside the union to enter unless they have low rates of COVID-19 infections.

While restrictions last, visitors from the UK will only be guaranteed the right to visit if they are on essential business or exempt from the rules for other reasons.

However, individual EU countries are able to choose which nationalities they permit to enter for non-essential travel. This means it's probable that at least some countries will open their doors. There is still uncertainty as to whether this will be the case from 1 January or from later in the year.

Find more unbiased advice on travel and the coronavirus, award-winning investigations, and legal advice on holiday refunds and cancelled flights with Which? Travel

What happens if I have a holiday booked to a country that doesn't allow British visitors after Brexit?

If you booked a package holiday then you are protected. The provider will cancel your holiday and should refund you within 14 days. You can see our guide to the best package holiday providers here.

What happens if I have a flight booked to an EU country and there is a no-deal Brexit?

Even in the event of a no-deal Brexit it's still likely that flights will continue. Both the UK and EU have agreed that aviation should be protected. However, no agreement has been signed.

If you booked a flight to an EU country that is no longer allowing British holidaymakers to enter, then you would only be able to get your money back from the airline if the flight is cancelled. In that case, the money should be refunded within seven days.

However, as EU citizens and essential business travellers will still have the right to fly between the UK and the EU, there's no guarantee that flights will be cancelled.

If your flight's not cancelled, you would need to check your travel insurance to see if you are protected. Most policies will not cover you in these circumstances.

Should I book a holiday to the EU for 2021?

No, not before we know whether the British government has agreed a deal with the European Union on Brexit.

This should be announced one way or another within days. Even then make sure to book a package for additional protection.

Can I travel to Spain after Brexit?

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) website says: 'Spain's borders are open to European Union and Schengen-area countries.'

The Spanish Embassy in the UK's website says: 'Please note that for the period starting on 1 January 2021, new rules are yet to be agreed between the EU and the UK.'

There is not currently any guaranteed right for British holidaymakers to visit mainland Spain or the Canaries, after 1 January.

However, given the links between the countries and the importance of British tourism, it seems likely that an agreement will be reached. We do not yet know whether this will be before or after 1 January. We have asked the Spanish Embassy to comment and are waiting for its reply.

Can I travel to France after Brexit?

The FCDO and French Embassy advice, in contrast to that for Spain, does say that British holidaymakers can enter the country, although it doesn't specify whether that will still be the case after Brexit.

The FCDO website says: 'Certain countries are exempt from these travel restrictions, including arrivals from the European Area (which the French Ministry of the Interior considers as EU Member States, the UK, Andorra, Holy See, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Norway, San Marino and Switzerland) and certain non-European countries.'

We have asked the French Embassy to comment and are waiting for its reply.

Can I travel to Greece after Brexit?

The FCDO website says: 'If you're a British national, you can enter Greece, but you must comply with the Greek authorities' requirements.'

However, it doesn't specify whether this will still be the case after 1 January.

The Greek Embassy has an automated chat system that advises whether you can enter the country with the current COVID-19 restrictions. For non-EU holidaymakers who do not meet other requirements it says: 'You CANNOT travel to Greece unless the travel restrictions are lifted.'

Again, this may not be the case for UK citizens - it will depend on the result of any deal reached with the EU or Greece. We have contacted the Greek embassy and are waiting for its reply.

Can I travel to Netherlands after Brexit?

The FCDO website says 'International arrivals from outside the EU, UK and the four non-EU Schengen countries remain subject to entry checks to prevent non-essential travel,' but it's not clear whether this will still apply after 1 January.

The website for the Dutch Embassy has a facility where you can send a WhatsApp message with travel questions. We asked whether British holidaymakers will still be able to travel to Netherlands after 1 January. The response was: 'They may need a visa to travel as British citizens to the Netherlands in 2021.'

The press office for the Netherlands Embassy quickly clarified that this was a mistake. There are no plans for UK citizens to need a visa to visit the EU in 2021, unless they intend to stay more than 90 days. However, it does illustrate the confusion around travel as we wait to hear whether there will be a Brexit deal.

The Embassy did tell us that after 1 January 2021 the UK could be regarded as a 'third country'. While current Covid restrictions last, travellers would only be allowed to visit the Netherlands for essential purposes

What happens will depend on whether there is a Brexit deal and the nature of that deal.