Holidaying in the EU

Sometimes, it’s the little things in life that matter. Over 29 million holidays are made by UK tourists to other EU countries each year, a whopping 76% of holidays taken. Meanwhile, 68% of business trips from the UK are to EU countries and 44% of UK inbound tourism spending is by EU nationals.

ABTA recently published a new report outlining what a vote to leave the EU might mean for the UK travel industry and consumers. They say continued EU membership benefits UK travellers in many ways…


Cleaner Beaches. The 1976 Bathing Water Directive, required member states to designate bathing waters and ensure they were clean for public use. The UK was slow to respond, but by 1993 the EU had won a legal battle that forced the UK to ensure it keeps its beaches safe. By 2014 there were 632 designated bathing waters in the UK, and 98.9 per cent met the standards detailed in the EU’s Directive, which had been further strengthened by that time. The same rules apply across Europe, meaning safer beaches wherever we go in the EU.

Compensation for delays. The EU has ensured that a range of passenger rights regulations across all modes of travel have made it into law in member-states. The best-known of these is regulation 261/2004 for compensation in cases of denied boarding or significant delays for air travel.

Free Health Cover. The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) is available to all EU residents and guarantees the holder access to local health services in any EU country on the same terms as available to local people. EHIC arrangements currently apply to all EU and European Economic Area countries. In the event of Brexit, ongoing involvement would be subject to negotiation. If UK travellers’ access to local health care was limited this would have an impact on travel insurance premiums.

Cheaper roaming fees. The European Parliament recently agreed a cap on mobile phone roaming charges, harmonising the maximum charges applicable to consumers for using their phones in other EU countries. This will be extended to a complete ban on additional roaming fees across the EU in April 2017. As an EU Regulation (531/2012), the law applying these rules would be removed by a British exit.

Financial Protection. The Package Travel Directive ensures that when you book a package tour within the EU, you have consumer protection in cases of insolvency or where there is a failure to perform contracted services. Negotiations would be required to ensure such reciprocal arrangements could remain in place if the UK was to leave the EU.

More routes and airline competition. The EU’s aviation industry is one of the most liberalised in the world, and while this is not good news for climate change, it has resulted in more routes, more airlines, greater competition and lower fares for consumers. The EU has also negotiated ‘Open Skies’ agreements, which are bilateral agreements with EU countries acting together to agree rules with countries outside the EU. The best known is the EU-US Open Skies agreement (2007).

Border Free Travel. While the UK retains control of its own borders and sits outside the border-free Schengen zone, UK consumers are able to travel freely within much of continental Europe and EU citizens only experience simple border checks when entering the UK. For travel outside of the EU, the UK would be able to seek new bilateral visa agreements with non-EU countries but these would take time to negotiate.

Freedom to work. Under current arrangements, UK citizens have the right to work in any country in the European Economic Area (EEA) without a permit. This includes all countries in the EU as well as in Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein. Under EU rules, UK workers have the same rights as nationals of the country they are working in when it comes to conditions at work, pay and social security. In 2014, 27% of UK emigrants who migrated to another EU country did so for work-related reasons.Molly Language School

Freedom to Study. The Erasmus+ programme allows more than 10,000 British students to study abroad each year. Since the scheme started, more than 200,000 British students have spent time at another European university, learning about another culture and expanding their horizons through exchange travel.

Bringing home unlimited goods. Currently you are not required to pay duty on goods you bring into the UK from the EU as long as you transport them and will use them yourself, or plan to give them as a gift, and have paid any relevant duty in the country where you bought them. If the UK leaves the EU the days of the booze cruise to France could be well and truly over!

And don’t forget, your UK driving licence is also valid across the European Union. People often say the EU is out of touch, but it’s things that make everyday life easier that typically go unnoticed.