Understandably, this question has concerned a number of Pharos’ school clients so our Educational Visits Adviser Charlie Eustace has provided some advice during the current political situation. International educational visits can be particularly rewarding and beneficial to students and staff alike. Learning about different cultures, languages, foods and ways of life, and experiencing the confusion and empowerment of making oneself understood when English may not be a common language can provide enriching, memorable experiences for young people. The benefits of such visits should be clear but how easy will it be to travel to EU countries after Brexit?
- Getting there. Whether Brexit happens with a ‘deal’ or not, it will still be possible to travel from the UK to the EU! Assurances have been made to UK airlines from the EU and vice versa. ABTA have written some guidelines on this themselves.
- Passports and visas. The EU Council has agreed for UK nationals to have visa-free travel to the Shengen area after Brexit, even in the event of a ‘no deal Brexit’. The UK government has, however, advised that travellers to EU countries should have six months validity on their passports after 29th March 2019. If you’re travelling to countries outside the Shengen area, you should check the FCO for passport validity advice for those countries.
- Group passports. The UK Passport Office have confirmed to the Outdoor Education Advisers’ Panel (OEAP) that as collective passports are issued in the UK under the authority of a non-EU Treaty, they will be unaffected by Brexit.
- Travel insurance. Always required for visits abroad, special consideration should be given to insurance policies relating to European trips, especially if they were booked some time ago. Check with your insurers that your policy is sufficient for your trip and be very clear on any limitations. Insurance companies will probably have been contingency-planning for some time and should be able to answer any questions you have.
- EHIC. In the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit, EHIC cards will cease to be valid. They may remain valid during a ‘transition period’ or longer, depending on the outcome of negotiations. The NHS advice is to check the specific health arrangements in the country you’re travelling to. In any case, adequate travel insurance is essential and should include emergency medical treatment and repatriation to the UK.
- Using a tour operator. If you’re using a tour operator for your educational visit, get written assurance from them that their T&Cs, insurance package, ATOL licence and other arrangements will be unaffected by Brexit. If you have booked through a European Provider before 29th March 2019 but are travelling after 29th March, the UK Government advises that you check with your provider that they have given you adequate insolvency protection in the event that they become insolvent, as their conditions may cease to apply to UK consumers after 29th March.
- Time. In light of all of the above and the uncertainty surrounding the topic, whether the UK leaves the EU with a deal or not, it is important to factor in plenty of time to research, plan and finalise your school trip. It is also advisable for schools to allow additional time for passport checks at airports and on both sides of the English Channel, following information provided on websites of transport operators, airports or port authorities until the situation is clearer. There is no reason, currently, to think that school trips to the EU cannot continue as they are, but a trip planned well in advance of departure allows for adaptation in the event of further advice being issued. In the meantime, keep abreast of the UK government’s updates – and enjoy the visit!
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