02 Feb

Offering solutions to Brexit challenges 

It’s three years this week since the UK officially left the European Union and our message to government is that there is still work to be done to resolve outstanding issues. It’s a focus for our public affairs and lobbying activity, particularly as regards employee mobility.

Leaving the EU meant the travel industry could no longer have UK staff within the EU under the Posted Workers Directive. Instead, UK nationals are limited to 90 days in any 180-day period when working in the EU, which has proved a challenge for many businesses within the industry, affecting roles such as reps in resort and tour guides.

We know from our extensive experience of lobbying – and from the timely reminder by Baroness de Vere at our Travel Matters conference in December – that Government doesn’t want to just hear a list of problems from industry, it wants to be presented with solutions. And that is what we try to provide throughout our lobbying work.

When it comes to employing staff overseas we think expanding the Youth Mobility Scheme is a sensible and realistic approach. And while it doesn’t solve the matter entirely, it would be a good bridging solution allowing young people from the UK to work in the EU, and vice versa, helping to address some of the staffing – and also expertise – gaps experienced by both the outbound and inbound sectors. 

We’re working closely with partners across the industry on this matter, including UKinbound and Seasonal Businesses in Travel, as well as other partners in the Tourism Alliance, and we are raising these matters with MPs, officials, and also with Government Ministers.  

There are also many other Brexit-related issues, including ensuring that UK travellers understand and are prepared for the introduction of the EU’s entry and exit checks, recently delayed until the end of the year, and the new e-visa regime coming in at a similar time. We’re also urging both sides to reach agreement on mutual recognition of professional qualifications. ABTA is staying across all of the issues that matter to the UK travel industry. 

Some issues are not easy to resolve. For example, the 90 in 180-day rule is particularly tricky for coach drivers, who often spend more than 180 days a year in Europe, but do not have the option of applying for visas in any Member State. That issue doesn’t have a simple fix, but it is important we continue to raise it with Government to keep it on the agenda, and the fact it will also affect freight drivers is a reminder of why it is so important to work collectively not just across the travel industry but also beyond. Ever since the referendum in 2016, ABTA has maintained a constructive dialogue with UK and EU Governments on these matters. 

As we continue to lobby on behalf of members across Government, I was pleased to join the first Aviation Council meeting yesterday, set up in the wake of the pandemic with the aim of greater cross-government and industry collaboration on international travel.  The Council will be tackling the question of summer 2023 aviation resilience, as well as the longer-term strategic challenge of how to resource the people and skills the industry will need, and how to meet net zero targets while continuing to grow.

Mark Tanzer, Chief Executive