In the lead-up to the announcement that the technical details of a Brexit deal between the UK and EU have been reached, Brussels has also announced that British citizens will not require a visa to enter the Schengen Zone once Britain officially withdraws from the union in March 2019.
“Very intense negotiations are ongoing. It is clear that although we are making progress, we are not there yet,” Commission First Vice-President, Frans Timmermans told journalists in Strasbourg. “We also discussed a number of issues related to our no-deal planning. You have to do that anyway. We are working very hard for a deal and let’s be clear that is by far our preferred option, but we need to prepare for all options.”
According to the plan, British subjects will not need visas for stays of up to 90 days. Timmermans, however, said the EU’s proposal would only come into effect if the UK also granting reciprocal and non-discriminatory visa-free travel for all members of the EU, which he reiterated was the standard practice, in line with the principle of visa reciprocity.
The new regime would come into force on March 30, 2019, if the UK withdraws from the bloc without having signed a deal with Brussels.
“If a deal is reached, however, it would apply as of the end of the transition period,” the EU Commission said in their statement, adding that this would have to be approved by both the European Council and the European Parliament.
Furthermore, in the event that the UK introduces a visa requirement for nationals of one EU member, the reciprocity mechanism will be applied by the European Parliament, the Council, the Commission and the member states without delay.
While news of a visa exemption will be welcome news for British passport holders, travellers could still be inconvenienced by Brexit as the EU is planning to introduce a system known as ETIAS – the EU Travel Information and Authorisation System – modelled on the US’ ESTA system and is being introduced on security grounds.
Under the new protocol, which is set to come into force in 2021, countries from outside the bloc will need to apply for an electronic travel authorisation in advance, even if they are visa-exempt. The ETIAS process will force travellers to undergo a detailed security check of each applicant to determine whether they can be allowed to enter any Schengen Zone country.
The EU has said that citizens of countries who do not need a visa for travel purposes of up to 90 days in the EU, will not need to go through a long review process when applying for travel authorisation
The EU’s chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier is due to brief the remaining EU-27’s ministers later this week about the overall progress of the negotiations.