Brexit: Beware of social media claims about travel after UK leaves EU

The Man Who Pays His Way: Travel news... and fake news


Simon Calder
Travel Correspondent
Saturday 06 April 2019 17:55
EU Parliament votes to give UK citizens visa-free travel after no-deal brexit

As the political temperature rises, the invective about travel after Brexit is becoming ever more shrill – especially on social media. In case you find yourself at the receiving end of some “information” about travel procedures over the next few years, and are unsure about its veracity, allow me to help with a trio of topics which have been swirling around in cyberspace.

On Thursday I wrote that the European parliament had voted by 502 to 81 in favour of allowing British travellers to make short visits to the EU without a visa, in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

On Twitter, T J Seeker was quick to respond: “Another remoaner lie – Brits needing visas for travel around EU post Brexit: EXPOSED!”

Well, had MEPs not voted for the concession, we would have been third-country nationals who needed visas. Also, from 2021 when the European Travel Information and Authorisation System (Etias) comes into effect, UK travellers will need to apply in advance for permission to visit the European Union.

While Etias is not officially described a visa, I think a scheme that requires you to fill out forms and pay €7 ahead of applying for admission can reasonably be known as a “Euro visa” for short.

On Wednesday, I described the demise of standby flights, mourning the loss of these cheap last-minute tickets.

“I never failed to get a seat,” I recalled nostalgically, “though occasionally it was touch and go until the last moment.”

Standby tickets went into decline when airlines realised that people like me were taking advantage of their desperation to fill empty seats. The carriers concluded it was more profitable to sell cheap tickets well in advance and then raise fares steeply in the last few days to capitalise on passengers who were desperate to travel.

But on Twitter, Henry Pearce soon contradicted my understanding. Using the hashtags #killingfreedom and #HateEU, he explained: “Pure standby flights were banned by the EU many years ago. Now you need an existing ticket to the destination.”

That assertion came as a surprise to me and everyone I know in aviation. In 2017, due to some considerable disorganisation, I ended up buying a ticket 10 minutes after the plane was due to have left a German airport; luckily, it waited for me. I asked Mr Pearce to point to the relevant European legislation that appears to have been breached. So far he has not come back to me.

One Henry who has responded to an enquiry from me is the “MP for Gatwick” – Henry Smith, who is Member of Parliament for Crawley, within whose constituency the UK’s second-largest airport resides.

In the referendum, the town voted 58:42 to leave the European Union.

Last month the pro-Brexit MP, who has called for a no-deal departure, retweeted a long-discredited story from 2014 that was headlined: “After 2020, all EU members will have to adopt the euro.”

This is tosh: were the UK to remain in the EU, it has a permanent opt-out from the euro. If you have to much time on your hands you can check the exact wording from the Treaty of Lisbon: “Unless the United Kingdom notifies the Council that it intends to adopt the euro, it shall be under no obligation to do so.”

Despite the nonsense it contains, Mr Smith’s tweet has not been removed. It has received almost 2,000 “likes” and nearly 1,000 retweets.

Mr Smith told me: ”It is generally accepted that retweets are not necessarily endorsements of a post.”

But I have not yet had a response to my other question to Mr Smith: “For the benefit of the many travel businesses in Crawley, can you kindly explain the benefits of a no-deal Brexit for the travel industry?”

Two giant travel companies have their homes, lucky things, in the Sussex town. Like me, Virgin Atlantic was born in Crawley. The airline’s founder, Sir Richard Branson, said in December: “Britain would be near bankrupt if we push ahead with something like a hard Brexit.”

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Almost next door lives Europe’s biggest holiday company, Tui, which has “a focus to alleviate potential impacts of Brexit”. (That’s “alleviate”, not “capitalise upon”.)

Across at Gatwick, the predominant plane is orange, because easyJet is the leading operator at the airport.

But many of those aircraft are now registered in Austria, as a precautionary move to allow the airline to keep flying within the EU. And on Monday, easyJet lost seven per cent of its value when the airline revealed that uncertainty over Brexit was hitting earnings.

Along the rocky road to Brexit, beware of misdirections.

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