How will Brexit affect UK passport holders and travel to the EU?

  • By ITV News Multimedia Producer Melinda Boutkasaka

Brexit uncertainty and the looming possibility of a no-deal departure could see an end to frictionless travel between the UK and EU.

Since the 2016 referendum, a record number of people have rushed to get EU passports for fear of losing their right to border-free movement – and not just within Europe.

The Passport Index, which ranks the world’s passports, indicates nine out of the 10 most powerful passports to have - in terms of mobility - are countries from the EU.

The UK passport is currently ranked down in 25th.

It’s part of the reason why 28-year-old Kurt Angel is fast-tracking a move to Denmark, which sits fifth in the passport list.

“The benefits of being a UK citizen for me will end with Brexit, if free work and travel within the EU is no longer available,” he told ITV News.

Kurt Angel is set to move to Denmark to protect his ability to move and work within the EU.

The British citizen can continue to move and work after Brexit as long as he declares residency in Denmark first, though he bemoans the changes to make travel harder.

“I personally believe that we should be pulling down barriers, allowing more free flow of travel and work around the world,” he said.

“At this stage I intend to live in Denmark for a period of time and if I enjoy the life I will consider citizenship down the track. However, citizenship is not given out lightly in Denmark.”

His decision will be helped by Britain securing a deal to leave the EU, which would mean no immediate changes to passport rules.

They would stay in place until at least 2020 and passport holders can continue to travel or work without a visa during the period.

So Mr Angel will have until 2020 before he takes the leap to gain citizenship.

But with the Brexit deadline looming, failing to land a Danish passport before October 31 could bring his - any many others' - travel and work plans to a halt.

How will Brexit affect UK passport holders?

More people are gaining an alternative EU passport to avoid restrictions on their freedom of movement.

The guarantee of free movement through the EU and Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland is currently set to end after 31 October.

If the UK leaves the EU without a deal new rules are set to come into effect.

UK passports can still be used to travel to and from the EU after Brexit, though a travel visa may be required.

The website advises: "If there’s no deal, you will not need a visa for short trips, according to European Commission proposals."

"You could stay for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. You may need a visa or permit to stay for longer, or to work or study. Check back for updates."

Will passports with EU signage still be valid?

The European Union signage is being removed from UK passports.

From October 2019, newly issued British passports will be blue and gold and lose all references to the European Union.

They will also incorporate new security features with a polycarbonate photo page hindering efforts to doctor the document.

But the existing burgundy passports carrying the EU signage will still be valid until expiry.

UK passports must also comply with the European Union's Schengen Border Code, which effectively means they mustn't be due to expire within six months of the 31 October deadline.

So if your passport was issued on or before a date prior to April 2010 then it's best to renew now.

The renewal process takes around three weeks, unless you use a premium service.

You can also check your passport is valid for travel from this government website.

What about travel to Ireland?

An increasing number of people are getting Irish passports even if they won't call Dublin or other cities home.

The separate Common Travel Area arrangements which govern travel from the UK to Ireland will be upheld even in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as will travel to all non-EU countries.

But that hasn’t stopped huge numbers applying for Irish passports before Brexit comes into effect.

In 2018, the Irish government reached yet another record-breaking year, with over 822,000 passports issued.

London-based Australian Hayley Cairney is among the new holders, with the passport meaning she doesn’t have to apply for the EU Settlement Scheme to remain in the UK.

She was surprised to land a few unexpected extra benefits too.

“I didn’t realise until I started travelling with my Irish passport that people who are 25 years old and younger get free or reduced entry to museums and historical sites all over Europe,” she told ITV News.

But – like others – she knows the passport retains her freedom to move to Europe.

“Depending on how the economy and everything goes after (Brexit) I may even move to a different EU country like Spain or the Netherlands,” she said.

How else could a no-deal Brexit affect travel?

Access to travel beyond the EU won't be affected by Brexit.

No deal could also see new arrangements at border control. warns: "You may need to show a return or onward ticket, show you have enough money for your stay and potentially use separate lanes from EU, EEA and Swiss citizens when queueing."

Drivers will also need to gain a 'green card' - which usually takes a month to get from your vehicle insurer - a GB sticker and, for some countries, an International Driving Permit.

The existing pet passport scheme will also be defunct in the event of a no-deal Brexit and be replaced by a process taking an estimated four months.

The EU guarantee of free mobile phone roaming will also end with no deal.

Could Brexit bring benefits to the British passport?

Could the power of Britons to fly the flag abroad be boosted after Brexit?

In a post-Brexit world having only a British passport is not necessarily a bad thing.

In fact, there are some predictions the British passport could potentially become stronger after the UK’s departure from the EU.

Hrant Boghossian, the vice president of Arton Group which runs the interactive Passport Index database, believes the UK could negotiate better visa waivers with non-EU countries to work its way up the power rankings.

"UK will be able to take full control of its borders and conduct its own visa waiver negotiations without taking into account the other EU member states,” he told ITV News.

“Most countries that had visa waivers with the EU will continue to want to maintain that with post-Brexit UK.”

Can you buy your way to a passport?

The existing golden route to a visa is now facing a clamp down.

The so-called ‘golden visa schemes’ have proven a route to British and EU citizenship.

It involves enormously wealthy people investing in properties in the country, and potentially paying between £250,000 to £10 million.

The UK is among at least 12 EU nations to run the highly controversial schemes and - along with Spain, Hungary, Latvia and Portugal - is one of the most prolific for dishing out the passports, with around 10,000 handed out.

According to a report by EU anti-corruption agency Transparency UK, in the last 10 years, the EU has welcomed more than 6,000 new citizens and close to 100,000 new residents through golden visas schemes and gained €25bn (£22bn) in foreign investment.

However, the EU has now attempted to crack down on countries providing these schemes.

Immigration lawyer Michael Marziano, from Westkin Associates, told ITV News: "We do not advise clients on this, as it does not relate to UK immigration law, or to EU law as applied in the UK.

"However, we are aware of these schemes and, occasionally, have had clients who have considered these routes towards EU citizenship.

"Such applications would be handled by lawyers operating in those countries, in conjunction with the authorities of those countries."