EU agrees post-Brexit visa-free travel for UK nationals

Brussels, 05/04/2019. On Wedneday this week, 03/04/2019, the EU Parliament Civil Liberties committee (LIBE) passed a proposal for visa-free travel for UK citizens post-Brexit, regardless of any deal or no-deal decision in the UK Parliament. The proposal had already been endorsed on the Tuesday by the EU Council’s Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER).

The following day, Thursday 04/04/2019, the full European Parliament, by 502 votes to 81 (29 abstentions), backed the draft proposal, which exempts UK citizens from visa requirements when entering the EU for short visits after the country leaves the European Union. Such visits allow stays in the EU of up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

The new law would come into effect automatically the day after the United Kingdom exits the EU, however is only valid provided the UK offers the same conditions to EU nationals visiting the UK.

Sergei Stanishev, EU Parliament rapporteur for the proposal, said, “Today’s vote is an important step for guaranteeing visa-free travel for European and British citizens after Brexit, especially in the case of no deal. It is no secret that the negotiations were blocked over Gibraltar, but in the end it was Parliament that demonstrated responsibility and put citizens’ interests first.”

The final step before passing into EU law is approval from the EU Council of Ministers, which is meeting next Monday and Tuesday, 08/04 – 09/04/2019. I am assured (unofficially) that this approval is a formality, as the proposal was already endorsed by COREPER at the start of the process.

The speed of passage of this bill is remarkable; it has flown through the various committee and trilogue stages needed before approval by the high-ups. This rapidity has been prompted by (what everyone thought was) the looming Brexit deadline of 12th April 2019 – the legislation needed to be adopted and published in the Official Journal of the EU before that date, in time for a potential No-Deal situation.

Yet as I write, the Brexit situation is changing from day to day. It now seems likely that the Brexit deadline will be moved back to the 22nd May 2019 at least, if British Prime Minister Theresa May and her government win agreement for a Brexit withdrawal bill of some kind.

However at the same time President of the EU Council Donald Tusk has announced that he will propose, at next week’s EU Council meeting on Wednesday 10/04/2019 to discuss Brexit, an extension of the withdrawal deadline by at least a year.

With both the British Parliament and the EU institutions moving new proposals forward at extraordinary speed, it is not surprising that those not following the interplay closely are confused. However, UK and EU citizens should at least be reassured about one thing.

The Brexit process may be mind-boggling in its complexity, but by this time next week, whatever the final outcome of Brexit and when it happens, they should be able to travel freely within the EU and the UK.

© Philip Hunt, 2019.


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