Set in the near future, this piece assumes that the United Kingdom goes ahead with a full withdrawal from the European Union, with no reciprocal trade agreements or freedom of movement. It’s a ‘worst case scenario’ and it’s unlikely that everything here will become true, but it will hopefully make you think.
So, it’s time for your annual holiday to Spain! Well, you had to miss last year — the cost of the flights and accommodation had rocketed and so you needed longer to save up.
You book your travel insurance — again, paying more than last time, now that your EHIC card is no longer worth the plastic it’s made of. You head out to pick up your foreign currency, and grimace at the exchange rate. Gone are the days where every £1 would buy you €1.40 — now, you come away with fewer Euros than Pounds.
Your passport returns from the Schengen visa office just in time — another expense that you had to save up for. You read the enclosed leaflet, including the dire warnings about what could happen if you overstay on your visa.
Still, it’s time to get packed, and set off the airport. Last time, you were able to fly direct from your local airport, but the budget airline that operated that route withdrew it after bi-lateral restrictions on air service agreements were re-introduced. So, it’s a long drive to London Heathrow, and you’re almost late because you nearly forgot your International Driving Permit which you’d never needed before.
You’re through the airport and on the plane without too much difficulty, and it’s not long before you land in Malaga. You alight from the plane, and head to Arrivals. Inside, you’re funnelled into the ‘Non-EU/EEA Nationals’ lane for the first time. You join a huge queue of fellow Brits, as well as some who have travelled from America and the Middle East.
Finally, you reach the desk. The Spanish immigration officer takes your passport, looks at you, and adds a date stamp for your visa. You collect your belongings, and get on a coach, bound for your hotel on the Costa del Sol.
The next day, you go out for a stroll. It feels different, somehow, from how you remember if from years gone by. Back then, as well as Spanish voices, you’d hear plenty of people speaking English. But not now; when Britain left the EU, Spain deported huge numbers of British immigrants who had settled. You pass several British bars and cafés — most of them closed.
Despite all this, you have an enjoyable week’s holiday, although you weren’t able to post any gloating photos on Instagram whilst you were there as the roaming charges were huge. But it’s time to head back to the airport.
You arrive, but your flight is cancelled. And the next flight isn’t until tomorrow. The budget airline your flew with isn’t very helpful, and offers you the bare minimum that it is required to. It gets to 10pm, and you notice that those flying to Frankfurt whose flight was also cancelled are all off to a hotel for a night, whilst you try to get comfy on the cold, hard floor of the departures area.
The following day, you’re able to get on a plane, and set off back to Heathrow. Leaving the plane, you head to to the British Nationals queue, and onwards to customs. Whilst away, you picked up nine bottles of Spanish wine, but this puts you over the 4 litre limit that was re-imposed following Brexit. You begrudgingly cough up an extra six pounds to a stern-looking customs official, and carry on. You collect your bags, and get in the car, ready for the long drive back home.
A week later, you hear that the airline turned down your request for compensation for the disruption. You decide that pursuing it in court would be pointless, and accept the miserable end to an expensive holiday. Maybe you’ll go back, but not for a couple of years, as you’ll need to save up again.
This piece was partly inspired by this Telegraph piece on what Brexit will mean for travellers. We can’t be sure whether all, some, or indeed any of this will come to pass, but clearly, Britain’s vote to leave the EU will have some profound effects on freedom of movement and the cost of holidays.
This was also cross-posted to Medium.