Brussels says UK travellers will be subject to EU border checks in no-deal Brexit
EU member states prepare for changes, but warn ‘disruption will occur’ at customs
A Leave supporter holds up a blue UK passport at a pro-Brexit march in Sunderland. Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images
British travellers will get a stamp in their passport every time they enter and leave the European Union in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the European commission has confirmed.
The announcement on border checks was revealed just days after the British government secured a short extension that shifts the Brexit deadline to April 12th.
“The risk of a no-deal scenario is becoming increasingly likely,” an EU official said. The EU’s Brexit no-deal plans “cannot replicate the benefits of being an EU member” and were not “mini-deals or a negotiated no deal”, but unilateral measures to avoid disruption for the EU side, the official said.
In an information notice, the commission confirmed that UK nationals would have the right to visa-free travel for short stays in the EU (90 days in any 180-day period), if the UK grants the same arrangement to citizens of all EU member states.
“Your passport will be stamped both when you enter the EU and when you leave it, so that this period of 90 days, which is visa-free, can be calculated.”
In another return to the past, British travellers may be asked by border guards to provide information on the purpose of their visit and means of subsistence during their stay. Luggage would be subject to customs checks.
No deal would also mean the return of duty free and the right of British travellers to claim a refund of VAT paid on goods during their stay in the EU, provided they have the right documents.
The commission also confirmed British travellers would lose their right to access healthcare through the European health insurance card, and phone companies would no longer be obliged to waive roaming charges for British travellers in the EU.
For citizens of the UK and citizens of the Republic, travel between the two would not be subject to the same changes, as the Common Travel Area permits freedom of movement.
The EU increasingly believes that a no-deal exit on April 12th is likely, after handing Theresa May a three-week extension to find a way out of the Brexit impasse. The British government would get a longer extension only if it agreed by that date to take part in European elections on May 23rd.
The plan for the Irish border remains uncertain. An official said the commission was in talks with the Irish Government to ensure that EU law is upheld. “Checks will have to be done where they belong but that doesn’t mean we want to see visible infrastructure at the border,” the official said.
While preparations were being taken “extremely seriously”, delays could not be avoided: “Disruption will occur and nothing will be smooth ... There will be frictions, it’s pretty clear.”
European commission officials have visited all 27 member states to check on no-deal plans. Countries that trade heavily with the UK are hiring hundreds of customs officers and building border inspection posts to restart checks on animal, food and plant products.
The Netherlands plans to recruit 900 customs officers at the port of Rotterdam, France is taking on 700 and Belgium 300-400. Around more than half of these officers are already working and the rest are expected to be in post by the end of 2019 or early 2020.
If the UK crashes out of the EU on April 12th, the government will have six days to decide whether to pay its dues into the 2019 EU budget, so enabling British farmers, researchers and other recipients to receive EU funds. - Guardian News and Media 2019