You’ve probably heard by now that the United Kingdom has voted to secede from the European Union after more than forty contentious years. You may be wondering how that may affect your travel plans.
On the short term, the answer is “not at all.” The populace have voted, but now the government of the UK must formally notify the EU that they want to leave. After that, there will be a period of negotiation over the terms of the exit. That process will take a number of months, perhaps a year or two. Meanwhile, it’s business as usual. The UK is still officially a part of the Union and will be for some time.
On the longer term, things are far less certain. The UK is currently a part of the European Single Aviation Market, making flights between European countries virtually seamless. That will change once the exit is official, but it is not certain how. It is certainly in the best interests of both the UK and the EU to maintain close ties, and certainly, travel and trade will figure high on the priority list.
In the words of Tony Tyler, Director General and CEO of the International Air Transport Association (IATA), “The Brexit vote has triggered much uncertainty—financial and otherwise. As leaders in the UK and the EU work to establish a new framework for their relationship, one certainty to guide them is the need and desire of people on both sides of that relationship to travel and trade. Air transport plays a major role in making that possible. There were 117 million air passenger journeys between the UK and the EU in 2015. Air links facilitate business, support jobs and build prosperity. It is critical that whatever form the new UK-EU relationship takes, it must continue to ensure the common interests of safe, secure, efficient and sustainable air connectivity.”
IATA has issued a report on how these events might play out. Here are the main points:
- The UK has voted to leave the EU – the so-called ‘Brexit’ scenario. Considerable uncertainty remains regarding the precise detail of the exit and it could be 2 years or more before these issues are fully resolved; prolonged uncertainty will influence both the magnitude and persistence of the economic impacts.
- Preliminary estimates suggest that the number of UK air passengers could be 3-5% lower by 2020, driven by the expected downturn in economic activity and the fall in the sterling exchange rate. The near-term impact on the UK air freight market is less certain, but freight will be affected by lower international trade in the longer term.
- A big issue is with aviation regulation. The UK faces a trade-off between accessing the European Single Aviation Market and having the policy freedom to set its own regulations.
It is good to remember that the United Kingdom is composed of England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland. England and Wales voted in favor of the Brexit, while Scotland and Northern Ireland voters opposed it, but all the votes were fairly close. This means there will be a period of division among the population of the UK, which may influence the outcome of negotiations with the EU. There is also the question of how this may affect relations between Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK, and the Republic of Ireland, which shares the island with them. Since both countries have been part of the EU, barriers and borders between them have faded dramatically in recent years, but will this continue?
We have yet to see.