Travel is of fundamental importance in our global world. People travel for personal reasons, to visit family or friends and for professional reasons, to visit clients or colleagues. Travel connects us, on a personal and on a professional level.
In the EU, travel, or rather the freedom to travel – through the Freedom of Movement – is one of the four freedoms. Travel is at the heart of the European Union. While COVID-19 has had an incomparable impact on global travel, Brexit will impact travel too.
What is the Common Travel Area?
Travel between Ireland and the UK is governed by the Common Travel Area (CTA). Under the terms of the CTA, Irish and UK citizens are entitled to travel freely between Ireland and the UK and to reside freely in Ireland or the UK.
The CTA provides Irish and UK citizens with certain civic rights. Civic rights covered under the CTA include access to employment; access to education; access to healthcare; access to social benefits; access to social housing; and the ability to vote in regional and national elections.
The CTA pre-dates Irish and UK membership of the EU and is independent of the EU. In May 2019, the Irish and UK Governments signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) reaffirming a commitment to the terms of the CTA and the rights and privileges it provides.
From an EU perspective, the unique relationship between Ireland and the UK is recognised in the Withdrawal Agreement and the Northern Ireland Protocol, which provides that Ireland and the UK are entitled to form arrangements relating to the movement of persons.
EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA)
The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) establishes the post-Brexit terms of travel between the EU and the UK. While the terms of EU travel for Irish citizens are unchanged, the terms of travel for UK citizens have changed.
Under the TCA, UK citizens are entitled to visa-free travel in the Schengen Area for 90 days in any 180-day period, after this, a visa is required; these terms apply to single Schengen Area visits and to multiple Schengen Area visits.
In order to travel in the Schengen Area, UK citizens are required to have passports with a minimum of 6 months of validity on the day of travel. Additionally, UK passports are required to be fewer than 10 years old on the day of travel.
From 2022, UK citizens will have to apply for an ETIAS visa waiver in order to visit Schengen Area Member States. Passport and visa requirements apply to the Schengen Area only, UK citizens are entitled to visa-free travel to Ireland under the Common Travel Area (CTA).
In the UK, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC), which entitles holders to healthcare access when travelling in the EU, will be gradually replaced by the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC). This will entitle UK citizens to healthcare treatment while temporarily visiting the EU.
Non-Irish EU citizens will experience a change in travel to the UK. EU citizens are entitled to 180 days of visa-free travel in the UK after which a visa is required. In order to enter the UK, EU citizens are required to have a valid passport. On 1 January 2021, National ID cards became an insufficient form of identification for entry to the UK.
In terms of healthcare, EU citizens are entitled to use the EHIC to access healthcare when travelling in the UK.
Flight and Air Passenger Rights
In general, airports and airlines have confirmed that air travel between the EU and the UK will operate as normal. UK citizens travelling to the EU are required to adjust to a few additional travel requirements, as are EU citizens travelling to the UK.
Due to the Common Travel Area (CTA), the terms of air travel between Ireland and the UK remain virtually identical. Irish citizens are entitled to fly to the UK without a passport, however, acceptable photo identification is required.
Irish passengers may experience additional checks when connecting to flights through UK airports. This is a result of the fact that the EU and the UK are operating under new rules. The EU has stated that it intends to include the UK in the One-Stop-Security system, however, this has yet to happen.
Provided for in Regulation (EC) 300/ 2008, One-Stop-Security enables passengers flying from an EU airport to transfer at a different EU airport for an onward flight without experiencing additional security rescreening procedures.
The EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) ensures that the level of air connectivity between the EU and the UK should remain high. The EU and the UK have agreed to a host of operating rights intended to facilitate air connectivity, including Flyover Rights and Operating Rights.
The EU also has rules that protect passengers in the case of delays or cancellations. There are called air passenger rights. Regulation (EC) 261/ 2004, which establishes common rules on compensation and assistance to air passengers, ensures that passengers in the EU have a right to information and compensation and that EU airlines have obligations in terms of liability.
The rules outlined in EU passenger rights legislation cover flights in EU airspace and flights on an EU airline. EU passenger rights will apply to all flights departing from the EU, passengers flying from the EU to the UK on an EU airline or on a UK airline are entitled to EU passenger rights.
EU passenger rights will apply for passengers flying from the UK to the EU on an EU airline, however, EU passenger rights will not apply for passengers flying from the UK to the EU on a UK or non-EU airline.
While passengers flying from the UK to the EU on a UK or non-EU airline are not covered by EU passenger rights legislation, they are protected by UK passenger rights legislation. The 2018 Withdrawal Act enshrined certain elements of EU law in UK law including the Regulation on air passenger rights. This effectively ensures that passengers on UK-based airlines will have access to identical passenger rights with respect to airline delays and cancellations.
Ferries and Ship Passenger Rights
In terms of ship passenger rights, the EU has rules that protect passengers travelling by sea. Regulation (EU) 1177/ 2010 provides passengers travelling by sea with rights, including, the Right to Information, the Right to Care and Assistance and the Right to Reimbursement.
EU ship passenger rights apply to all passengers sailing from an EU port. Additionally, EU ship passenger rights apply to passengers sailing to an EU port, provided that the service is operated by an EU transport company.
Driving and Driving Licenses
On 1 January 2021 UK driving licenses ceased to be valid for Irish residents. Irish residents with a UK driving license are therefore required to exchange their driving license for an Irish driving license.
In order to facilitate this transition, the Minister for Transport signed an agreement with the UK allowing Irish residents to exchange their UK driving license for an Irish driving license. This exchange mechanism is an extension of the transition period exchange mechanism. The Road Safety Authority (RSA) has provided helpful information on how to exchange a UK driving license.
This is only an issue for Irish residents. Visitors to Ireland from the UK are entitled to drive in Ireland with a UK driving license. Further, residents of Northern Ireland required to cross the border for work are entitled to drive in Ireland with a UK driving license.
In terms of insurance, vehicles registered in the UK – including Northern Ireland – require a Green Card. A Green Card, issued by UK insurers, provides proof of insurance.
Since 1 January 2021, UK and Northern Ireland registered vehicles have required a Green Card for cross-border journeys on the island of Ireland. In contrast, vehicles registered in Ireland do not require a Green Card to drive in the UK.
From an Irish perspective, Irish driving licenses are recognised in Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK. In other words, Irish citizens resident in the UK are entitled to drive with Irish driving licenses.
This is a result of the fact that the UK has decided to recognise EU driving licenses post-Brexit. In practice, this means that neither Irish citizens resident in the UK with an Irish driving license nor Irish citizens visiting the UK with an Irish driving license, will face any difficulty.
On 1 January 2021, the UK received Part 2 listed status under the EU Pet Travel Scheme. Pet owners travelling from the rest of the UK to Northern Ireland and the EU are required to comply with relevant regulations. Pets travelling from the UK require microchipping, vaccination for rabies and treatment for tapeworm.
Further, pet owners are required to present an Animal Health Certificate (AHC) signed by a vet fewer than 10 days before travel. This is to certify compliance with all tests, treatments and vaccinations. Current EU pet passports will be invalid for UK owners.
Where We Stand
For Irish citizens, Brexit will have a limited impact on travel. The Common Travel Area (CTA) ensures that travel between Ireland and the UK will remain virtually identical, while Ireland’s status as an EU Member State ensures that travel between Ireland and the EU will remain virtually identical. For UK citizens, however, travel will become harder. While UK citizens will be able to travel freely to Ireland, travel to the rest of the EU will require visa in some instances.