As negotiations between the EU and the UK continue up to the eleventh hour, the possibility of a No-Deal Brexit is becoming increasingly likely.
Where would such an impasse leave UK holidaymakers planning to visit the EU next year? Specifically, would the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) still be valid?
What is the EHIC?
Millions of UK citizens benefit from the EHIC each year. The UK Government has issued some 27 million EHIC.
The card allows access to free or reduced-price medical treatment in the EU, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein.
According to the BBC, £150 million of treatment is granted to UK travellers through the scheme, which covers pre-existing conditions as well as any emergency treatment.
Will the EHIC be valid in 2021?
The good news is that the EHIC is valid until 31 December 2020. But, should there be no deal, it would then become invalid.
Access to low cost or free medical services will depend upon negotiations between the UK and individual countries.
So far, agreements have been reached with Spain, Ireland and Portugal to continue the scheme into 2021, if not necessarily the actual card. For instance in both Ireland and Portugal you will just need to present your UK passport to receive medical care.
As for the other EU countries, you might well have to pay for your medical care come 1 January 2021.
Make Sure You Have Travel Insurance for Europe
In any case, the UK Government is keen to point out that the EHIC should not be seen as a replacement for travel insurance, rather as complementary to it.
In many cases the EHIC will only provide for basic healthcare and would not cover ancillary costs or losses, such as the cancellation of the rest of your trip.
According to Which, the EHIC does not cover the cost of emergency rescue or repatriation back to the UK.
As inclusions vary considerably between travel insurance policies it is best to discuss what is or what is not included with experts such as at Meon Valley Travel.
However, if the UK does successfully negotiate a deal with the EU, this would likely include an extension to the EHIC scheme for 2021 at least. So, it is a good idea to apply for a new card, or renew your existing one; it is free, and easy to do online at the NHS website.
Other Post-Brexit EU Travel Changes
The EHIC scheme is not the only element of your travel to the Continent that might well change in 2021.
Make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months and was issued in the last ten years.
Also, if you are planning to hire a car on your travels you should apply for an International Drivers Permit (IDP), and even if you are driving your own car across the Channel make sure you have a green card, which will provide you with statutory cover, although you should also take out the necessary insurance for both you and the car you drive.
Finally, the procedure for taking pets overseas will change. The new process will take four months and is outlined here.
Of course, the eleventh hour might see a satisfactory conclusion to the Brexit negotiations, but it is best to take precautions to ensure your next European trip does not contain a few unpleasant surprises.
UK Transition Campaign
Travel to the EU will change from January 2021. Things you may need to do before you go include:
- Passports – UK passports will need to have a least six months remaining, and be less than ten years old. The government has created a passport checker for travellers to check whether you need to renew.
- Visas – UK travellers will be able to visit Schengen area countries visa-free for up to 90 days (within a 180 day period). Travel to any Schengen country counts towards this total. If you’re planning on staying longer, consult FCDO travel advice for that country for requirements.
- Healthcare – European Health Insurance Cards (EHICs) will not be valid. You should buy comprehensive travel insurance for your trip, making sure that includes cover for pre-existing health issues.
- Driving – Extra documents may be required to drive in the EU, this information will be available on gov.uk when confirmed.
- Pets – Current pet passports will no longer be valid. Travellers should consult their vet four months before planned travel to allow enough time for the new process. This will likely include taking blood samples and ensuring vaccinations are up to date.
- Roaming charges – free mobile phone data roaming will end. Travellers should check with their mobile phone network on their new roaming charges.
If you travel to the EU for work purposes after 31 December 2020, you may need a visa or work permit. Visit gov.uk/transition to find out what to do.
Key Messages for Businesses
- The way we conduct business is changing. To find out how your business will be impacted, visit gov.uk/transition
- If you travel to the EU for work purposes after 31 December 2020, you may need a visa or work permit. Visit gov.uk/transition to find out what to do
- If you receive personal data from the EU for business use, you may need to take action on data protection. Find out more at gov.uk/transition