19 Jul

The Brexit White Paper – what does it mean for travel?

Almost a fortnight ago now, the Prime Minister sat down with Cabinet to go through her blueprint for the UK’s future relationship with the EU and a week later the Brexit White Paper was published. It’s fair to say it has caused quite a stir.

Resignations and heated parliamentary debates aside, the White Paper does give us some insight into the Government’s thinking around important issues for the travel industry.

Many of the main priorities ABTA has been highlighting as essential to preserve a successful tourism industry - such as maintaining open skies access, remaining part of EASA, ensuring visa-free travel, and keeping the EHIC system – are featured in the White Paper. This is very encouraging and shows the Government recognises the value and contributions of the travel industry.

In particular the Government is seeking:

  • To maintain reciprocal liberalised aviation access (open skies), cooperation on air traffic management and participation in European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA). The government also intends to keep liberalised arrangements across other transport modes.
  • Visa-free travel for leisure and short-term business trips, but does acknowledge this could include reciprocal use of electronic authorisation systems (ETIAS), as part of efforts to streamline border processes.
  • Retention of the EHIC – and references this clearly as retention rather than replacement by an equivalent regime.
  • An agreement to have reciprocal continuing high levels of consumer protection, underpinned by joint mechanisms for dispute resolution and information exchange.

What is less clear are the future arrangements around posted workers and VAT arrangements. The Paper outlines an ambition to agree flexible employment arrangements, on a reciprocal basis, for identified sectors but there is no direct reference to Posted Workers within the Paper.

There is also no detail on VAT for services, which we know is a very important issue for UK travel businesses. I have written to the Chancellor Phillip Hammond to raise this issue with him, asking for further clarity.

As negotiations progress there are also three things we need to bear in mind. One: while it is good to have a better understanding of what the Government is seeking, we are still lacking detail. Two: this is just how the UK government wants the future relationship to work, the EU will have its own ideas, and so too will the individual nations. And three: the UK politics around Brexit will continue to intensify which could affect the negotiations and the final deal.

As the process moves forward, ABTA will continue to engage proactively, and to call for a pragmatic approach to the negotiations from both sides – seeking a deal that prioritises the needs of the travelling public and the travel industry.

Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive