Brexit: What will change after 31 January?

30 January 2020

The main thing you need to know about what will change after Brexit day is that most things will stay the same—for eleven months, at least.

That’s because after the UK leaves the EU at 11pm on 31 January 2020, it will enter a ‘transition period’, which is currently set to last until the end of 2020. While the country will have legally left the EU, during this transition period most EU rules will still apply to the UK

What happens after 31 December 2020 will depend on the outcome of the negotiations about the future relationship between the UK and the EU, which will be taking place over the year ahead.

The things that will change immediately after 31 January are mostly in the territory of the UK’s participation in the EU’s political and legal process. For example, after that date the UK will no longer have any MEPs or EU commissioners, and will no longer attend meetings of the European Council. UK in a Changing Europe have compiled a list of some of the major things that will change.

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Will Brexit affect my holiday?

Will Brexit affect passports?

Yes. New blue passports will be issued from early 2020 but phased in over a number of months. During this initial phase, you could be issued with either a burgundy or a blue passport. The government says that all passports issued from mid-2020 are set to be blue.

Your passport will continue to be valid after Brexit (provided that it is in date) no matter which style you have.

Other changes will come into force next year. Government guidance says that, from 1 January 2021, you will need at least six months left on your passport and for your passport to be less than 10 years old (even if it has more than six months left) in order to travel to most EU countries, as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. This change does not apply to travel to Ireland.

Do I need a visa to go to Europe?

During the transition period rules on travel to and from the EU will stay the same as before.

This might change in 2021, after the transition is set to end. 

The government has said that from 1 January 2021 tourists on short trips (of under 90 days) to the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland will not need a visa to travel.

But it  adds“You may need a visa or permit to stay for longer, to work or study, or for business travel”, and advises travellers to check the advice for the country they are going to.

No visa or permit will be required for travel to Ireland whether you are a tourist or a worker.

What will happen to flights after Brexit?

During the transition period until 31 December 2020 flights will continue as normal. After that, exactly what happens to flights will depend on the outcome of the UK’s negotiations with the EU.

Will I be able to drive in the EU as normal or hire a car?

Yes. The current rules on international driving—and hiring cars—will continue to apply during the transition period until the end of 2020.

From 1 January 2021, drivers may need an international driving permit to drive in some EU countries, particularly if you have an older paper license. If you’re taking your own vehicle to Europe, you’ll need a ‘green card’ from your insurance company to show your insurance provides at least the minimum cover and a GB sticker.

Will I have to pay roaming fees on my phone?

During the transition period until the end of 2020 you will be able to use your mobile phone in EU countries without roaming fees, as EU law still applies. 

After this period, it is possible that roaming fees might apply from January 2021, but this will depend on what happens during negotiations this year.

Will my EHIC (European health insurance card) still work after Brexit?

Yes. An EHIC allows you to access state-provided medical treatment across the EU, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. 

The EHIC will still work during the transition period. After that ends on 31 December 2020, the EHIC card might still work, but again that depends on what the EU and the UK negotiate over the coming months. 

Will Brexit affect trade?

Will it be harder to get medicines after Brexit?

It doesn’t seem likely that there will be an immediate shortage of medicines after 31 January 2020. There was talk of potential medicine shortages last year, in the event of a no deal Brexit in March or October. But that’s not the situation we’re facing now, when the UK is leaving with a deal.

What happens after 2020 will depend on the result of negotiations between the UK and EU.

Will we trade with the EU?

During the transition period the UK will remain part of the single market and customs union and will continue to trade under the same terms with the EU.

What the UK’s trading relationship with the EU will look like after the transition period depends on the kind of deal we negotiate. The Institute for Government has said “11 months is much less time than previous EU trade negotiations have taken” and that as a result both sides may end up “prioritising a largely goods-only free trade agreement”.

Northern Ireland is the exception to that. It will continue to be part of the EU’s customs rules for its trade with the Republic of Ireland beyond the transition period. Practically speaking, that means no tariffs or restrictions on goods crossing the Irish border in either direction.

Can we do trade deals after we leave the EU?

As soon as the UK leaves the EU on 31 January it can formally negotiate, and complete trade deals with other countries. But it can’t yet implement them, and according to UK in a Changing Europe, “the EU has asked other countries to continue to treat the UK as a member state for trade purposes” during the transition period. This lasts until the end of the year.

The UK has also agreed to continue 20 trade agreements covering around 50 countries and territories, which it participated in as a member of the EU. These will also come into force after the end of the transition period.

Will Brexit affect settled status?

Can I still apply for settled status?

Yes. The EU Settlement Scheme is open for applications until 30 June 2021.

If you have five years’ continuous residence in the UK and are a citizen of an EU country, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland you can apply for settled status. You can also apply if you have a family member who is a citizen of one of these countries.

If you do not have five years, you can apply for pre-settled status and then apply to change this once you have five years’ continuous residence. You must have started living in the UK by 31 December 2020 in order to apply for either status. 

Anyone with indefinite leave to enter or remain in the UK, or who is a British or Irish citizen does not need to apply.

Do other EU countries have an equivalent of settled status?

UK nationals who are legally resident in EU countries before 31 December 2020 will be able to remain.

Depending on the country you’re in you may need to apply for a new residence permit. UK government guidance says nationals will have until at least 30 June 2021 to do this.

Whether residency processes will change after December 2020 will be decided over the next year. The government has provided a guide to the latest information for each country.

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