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BREXIT


of 29 March, when Article 50 dictates the UK is out the EU. This would see the UK enter into a 21-month transition period (with the potential for extension) that keeps freedom of movement and EU regulations in place, and allows business a hiatus within which to prepare. Referred to by the prime minister as the “implementation phase”, she has insisted it will minimise disruption. In other words, “if a withdrawal agreement is reached and signed off by Parliament, business travellers can breathe a sigh of relief, as nothing will change until at least the end of 2020,” says Martin Ferguson, senior director of public affairs at American Express Global Business Travel. “If we have a no-deal scenario, where the UK simply falls off the end of the conveyor belt on 29 March, it’s likely to be more problematic,” he says.


REGULATORY CLIFF EDGE That could be an understatement. Without a deal in place the UK faces a regulatory cliff edge, its existing agreements with the EU dissolved as of 11pm on 29 March. That could leave the business travel sector facing challenges in all sorts of respects. There had been fears that British citizens would immediately require visas and additional documentation to travel to and from EU countries. Thankfully, a recommendation by the European Commission in November to place the UK on the visa-exempt list, even without a deal in place, makes that unlikely. But this remains conditional on the UK granting reciprocal rights to inbound EU travellers. A no-deal may mean the requirement to purchase a £52 90-day Schengen visa to enter EU countries still stands, advises the GTMC. For Stan Berteloot, vice-president of global growth at Visa HQ and marketing consultant at Dots & Lines, buyers should ensure visas no longer take a back seat in business travel planning. “What we find is a lot of companies disregard the need for a managed way


to deal with visas,” he says. “You’ll optimise your travel booking, you will work on your hotel programme, you will try to have the best travel policy you can, but visas are an afterthought, until you get stuck at customs because you don’t have the right one. “As we are thinking about whether or not people are going to need a visa to travel to or from the UK, corporations should start to look at what it means for them,” he adds. “They should make sure they’ve revised internal policies, suggest employees keep an eye on the expiration date of their passport, and start to think how they’ll deal with visas, whether or not Brexit makes it mandatory for UK corporations.”


THE UNCERTAINTY


THAT HAS EXISTED FOR THE PAST 30 MONTHS IS THE FACTOR THAT IS CAUSING PARALYSIS


of business visits from the UK are to EU countries


106 JANUARY/FEBRUARY 68% 73%


business visitors are from the EU


SOURCE: ABTA AND DELOITTE 2019 of inbound


The question of passports is also raised by GTMC. It makes the point that, under the Schengen Border Code, the UK may be required to comply with the rules applied to “third country passports”, which include a requirement that they have at least three months’ validity remaining on the date of departure. Travel managers and buyers, therefore, need to keep a closer check than before on expiration dates. A no-deal scenario could also see aviation impacted. Back in late September, technical notes were released by government that said UK- and EU-licensed airlines would lose the automatic right to operate air services between the two without seeking advanced permission. Though “it would not be in the interests of any EU country or the UK to restrict” these permissions, “there could be some disruptions to flights,” says the GMTC. That concern is echoed by one senior German travel


buyer, too. “I see the largest impact will be on airlines and the air traffic agreements, namely the Open Skies agreement,” he says. “The UK or EU might decide to not allow an airline to fly into the UK or from the UK to the EU anymore. Therefore, many flights could be grounded in the beginning and this would mean, for travellers, that supply is down for a while, and prices will go crazy for the remaining seats.” Other areas for travel buyers to consider include mobile roaming. As of 2017, mobile roaming charges


buyingbusinesstravel.com


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