Angel Islington

Brexit Travel Implications

On June 23rd, the citizens of the UK made a historic decision, voting to leave the EU.

As American expats in London, we were on the front line of the controversial referendum. There is a voting location about ten feet from our front door, which was flooded all day with eager voters. Also, Boris Johnson, the former mayor of London and the leader of the ‘Leave’ campaign, lives in our neighborhood. I cruise by his house on my morning run and when I turned the corner onto Colebrooke Row the day after the result was announced, there were TV crews set up on the small street and two armed police guarding his front door.

Clearly, some people were very angry.

Needless to say, the ‘Leave’ vote has generated a lot of questions and concerns about exactly how things will change in the UK in many aspects of life. Regardless of whether you think Brexit is good or bad for the UK, there are short and long-term ramifications for travelers in both the UK and the EU at large. Many of these consequences have yet to play out, but they will be debated and negotiated while the details of the exit are settled.

In the meantime, here are some of the biggest potential changes travelers will face as they touch down for their summer holidays this year and in years to come.

Currency Exchange Rates

The Monday after the Brexit vote, the British stock market lost billions in value. The vote destabilized what has historically been one of the region’s most stable economies and the pound sterling, that stodgy currency of the UK, took a beating. Today, nearly two weeks after the results, the pound has hit a 30-year low, and is currently trading at £1.29 to $1.

The euro has also fallen since the vote, as world economies speculate on the future of the EU without the UK as a member. Today, the exchange rate is €1.10 to $1, one of the lowest exchange rates since the euro was introduced nearly fifteen years ago.

For travelers from outside the Eurozone and UK, it is a great time to visit. Your currency will go further than ever. Personally, as we have access to both pounds and dollars, we’ve begun using our dollars-based credit cards more frequently thanks to the exchange rate. Just with this slight change in behavior, we’re saving about 13% on every single transaction.

However, within the UK, the major holiday operators like Thompson and Monarch are fearful of a drop in Brits traveling abroad (the EU is the destination of choice for 76% of UK residents). The depreciation of the pound means that the pound does not go nearly as far as it once did. For many thousands of people, that might be the difference between going abroad on holiday or staying in the country. For the holiday operators, the reduction in revenue could pose significant consequences to their financial stability.

Brexit Travel Implications

Low-Fare Airlines

One of the greatest joys of traveling in Europe is access to amazing low-cost airlines. We’ve discussed our feelings about budget airlines at length on this site, and I can’t overstate how much of an impact cheap airfares have had on our ability to travel as much as we do. The main reason ticket prices are so low is because the EU liberalized the skies 20 years ago with a single aviation space, resulting a ton of start-up airlines and increased competition.

It’s possible, in post-Brexit Europe, that some of the air restrictions between the UK and EU will increase, resulting in fewer flights per day, and thus, higher prices. The budget airlines are doing their best to minimize any impact to their business, by pressuring the EU to maintain the single aviation zone.

However, the night before the vote, we got an ominous email from Ryanair, announcing a fantastic one-day fare sale, with the warning that if the UK voted to leave the EU, these would be the cheapest airfares the airline would publish for a long time.

Bottom line, we won’t be surprised if we start to see flight prices more variable than usual, even though it will be some time before this particular conflict is resolved.

The Border and Immigration

One massive question on the table is how Brexit will effect immigration. The UK is not part of the Schengen Zone, which allows for freedom of movement around most of the EU, including 22 member states. So for both UK and EU citizens, who already have to show a passport when they travel from the UK to Europe (or vice versa), there will be no change.

Instead, the major change could be the freedom to work in the UK. Currently, any holder of an EU-nation passport can freely move to the UK and begin working without the need to apply for a work visa. The UK is a very attractive place for those who speak English as a second language, especially given the financial instability of some nations like Spain, Italy, and Greece, and the prevalence of foreign workers has boomed over the past few years.

The travel, tourism, and hospitality industries has taken advantage of the ease of hiring EU nationals, employing large numbers of EU workers. If those workers were forced to leave the UK and return home to apply for UK work visas, the UK could experience major staffing shortages. For visitors, that would mean fewer staff at tourist information centers, restaurants, hotels, museums and local attractions. In an international city like London, there simply wouldn’t be enough local staff to replace those positions quickly or efficiently, potentially causing major frustrations for visitors.

EU Regulations

The status of the EU legislation that provides protection to UK vacationers while traveling aboard is also uncertain.

Today, all EU residents receive compensation for delayed or canceled flights, receive financial protection for packaged holidays if the holiday company goes out of business, have limited mobile phone charges (the EU is eliminating roaming charges altogether in 2017), and have access to free or reduced treatments in hospitals throughout the EU.

With the Brexit, all of these rules and regulations will have to be renegotiated within the UK parliament, which will take time. As of now, there are a slew of conflicting views about the likelihood of all of the legislation being re-implemented in the UK.

Brexit Travel Implications

With the referendum, the future of travel around the UK and EU is uncertain, and many years of government negotiations are needed to determine the terms of the dissolution of the partnership. There could be far reaching implications for the travel industry, but only time will tell how it all shakes out.

We will be watching anxiously as the future of European travel is determined, and in the meantime, you’ll find us happily booking still-cheap flights and buying as many Euros as we can.

Brexit Travel Implications

  • July 6, 2016

    This is a very well written perspective on the situation. I’ve been reading as much as I can about it because we’re planning to move to London in November. Didn’t really think we’d be dealing with this new adjustment, but it’s helpful to see your thoughts on it as expats.

    • July 8, 2016

      It will be an interesting time of transition over the next few years. As expats, it is less of an issue. I personally was pretty against Brexit, but only time will tell how things will play out. I just read this morning that holidays abroad will now cost families £200 extra due to the dip in the currency, which is crazy! The good news for you is that London is getting cheaper everyday for expats as the value of the pound falls!

  • July 9, 2016

    Great article on a pertinent issue. Personally, I think all is going to be OK in a few months when UK Government gets its act together. Not all European countries belong to the EU block (Iceland, Norway and Switzerland), and by no means they are less privileged than all other EU nations. In my opinion UK is better off out of EU since they didn’t share Schengen space nor Euro currency already. I’m a 100% EURO guy. I love the core rules of the creation of a Euro Union. Yet, things have to change since we currently live under a EU parliament that no one voted for.
    João Leitão recently posted…Travel in Iraq, Amazing places possible to visit in 2016-2017My Profile

    • July 11, 2016

      I think things will settle eventually, but there will be years of recession ahead for the UK, especially with the falling pound. My favorite tidbit from Brexit is that they have to hire foreigners to negotiate the EU exit, since the UK doesn’t have enough negotiators to handle the task.
      I’m sure most Brits will appreciate the freedom from some of the more bizarre EU regulations over time, but in the near future, things are going to be a little rocky.

  • July 9, 2016

    While I think this is an excellently written post, as an English girl myself I do wonder where this information has come from? As I believe it, we still don’t know what brexit actually means as it hasn’t happened yet (just a vote that we would like to leave) and lots of this information is still to be sorted out by the politicians
    Curious Claire recently posted…8 Cool Cafes in Penang That Have CharacterMy Profile

    • July 11, 2016

      It is true it will take years. I just read yesterday that with the devaluing of the pound, the average UK family trip abroad is now £200 more expensive. For many families, that could mean the difference between going on holiday or just staying at home and saving the money. Many of the EU regulations concerning traveler’s rights may be implemented by the UK government, but many are skeptical just how far reaching the legislation will be. There is a lot of things to consider and it will require years of negotiation between the EU and UK before we know the exact effect.

  • July 9, 2016

    We have been following Brexit and the aftermath very closely. It is hard to tell what will happen, as Article 50 has not been triggered as yet. One thing I think, is that Britain should not be rushed into anything.
    Paula McInerney recently posted…I Interview Myself about Virtual FriendsMy Profile

    • July 11, 2016

      No, they shouldn’t be rushed into anything. They have to approach this break cautiously, as any rash move could have a major impact on the UK economy.

  • July 9, 2016

    Very well written post, in my opinion. There are certainly many implications and effects from Britain’s exit from the EU. I’m sure we’ll know more as the days passed.

    • July 11, 2016

      It will be more like years than days. The sheer complexity of the break up means that this will be a ongoing debate for at least two years, and possibly even more.

  • July 9, 2016

    Very good post! I think that (at least where I live, which is The Netherlands) many didn’t think that most votes would actually go to Brexit and we never thought it would actually happen. Now that it has been voted, I think that only time will tell what will happen to tourism. As for me, I am never really bothered by things like these. I generally plan my travels according to places to I want to see, not whether the budget allows it. Up to a certain level that is. I will definitely keep coming back, whether it becomes cheaper or more expensive to travel to Great Britain!
    anto recently posted…Adventures of solo hiking in LandmannalaugarMy Profile

    • July 11, 2016

      It is a great time to travel right now to the UK. The pound is at 1.17 against the Euro. Think, last July, it was 1.45. So, travel to the UK is 20% cheaper, purely based on the exchange rate!

  • July 10, 2016
    Grey World Nomads

    I tend to compare with the situation Swiss citizen have in Europe. The UK might get the same deals. I’m able to work every where in Europe and in the UK as a Swiss as well. I can hop borders. There might be major disadvantages for the businesses though. What a mess, all these negotiations which have to take place in short time!

    • July 11, 2016

      it will certainly be a mess. The financial sector is already reeling and things have just started. Hopefully, they figure out an immigration policy that makes sense, because the UK needs workers from the EU. Just as of last summer, they were doing massive hiring sprees for nurses for NHS hospitals, taking in a ton of people from Italy, Portugal, and Greece. Right now, almost 15% of NHS staff is from the EU, so if they had to leave the country to process a visa, the health care system would be in serious trouble.

  • July 10, 2016

    Brexit continues to infuriate me. What really bothers me is that the main people leading the leave campaign have all resigned. They were happy to cause the mess but won’t stick around to see it through. Ugh. My boyfriend and I are talking about moving to Australia lol.
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    • July 11, 2016

      We are heading out in September. Not because of Brexit, but the timing is good. We have a lot of friends, especially in finance sector, who have already taken jobs in other cities like Dublin and Paris. Glad people like Nigel and Boris were fine to campaign for Brexit, but no willing to step up and do the dirty work. Classy.

  • July 11, 2016

    For sure, Brexit would affect many industries, including tourism. But there is no clear view of the effects. The main thing bothers me is that nationalism is growing and we are going far from walking in the path of “the world without borders”

    • July 12, 2016

      there is so much up in the air right now, that’s for sure. We’ll see how things play out…

  • July 12, 2016

    There is so much going on with this and so many people left wondering what is going to happen. This post was def needed. Meanwhile it is a great time to exchange some currency.

    • July 14, 2016

      Thanks Holly – it will definitely be interesting to see how it all shakes out!

  • September 13, 2016
    Emilie Flipot

    Hello. I am french and Brexit had a great impact on my savings. In order to find the best solution to send money abroad at that time, I have used It is a good way to compare all the money transfer solutions that exist on the market and be sure to make a good deal. I have used it a lot during the Brexit and it has been very helpful 🙂