Amidst growing speculation that No Deal is the most likely outcome of May’s attempts at renegotiating the withdrawal agreement, the European Union has now officially offered the UK visa-free access to the EU for Brits…even if we leave without a deal. The move flies in the face of suggestions by Remain activists for years that British citizens would face high costs and paperwork should they want to travel to EU nations.
The European Commission confirmed that as of 2021, UK visitors to EU member countries will have to pay 7 Euros for the European Travel Information and Authorisation Scheme (ETIAS) – effectively the same as the US ESTA system, which grants entry to the country for most people without criminal records. The ETIAS can be purchased online ahead of travel and will last for three years, meaning Project Fear now has one less ludicrous claim to throw around.
The offer is granted upon the condition of reciprocity, meaning the EU will be expecting a similar deal for EU citizens looking to travel to the United Kingdom. This serves as a great example of the importance of cooperation between the UK and the EU. It shows the EU considers us a major trading partner and doesn’t want professionals and visitors from the EU being cut off from our economy.
Today’s news comes as No Deal legislation from the EU is revealed, and a simple footnote in the legislative documents have sparked a row over Gibraltar. The European Union described the Rock as “a colony of the British crown” – an addition to the documentation added at the insistence of Spain, who claims ownership of the soil.
The UK’s ambassador in Brussels, Sir Tim Barrow, today expressed the anger of the British government. The official spokesman for the Prime Minister said it was “completely unacceptable” to describe Gibraltar in this way, and that Gibraltar is “a full part of the UK family and has a mature and modern constitutional relationship with the UK.”
Following Brexit, the relationship between the UK and Gibraltar will not change – but the potential reopening of the Withdrawal Agreement could mean that Spain tries to gain further concessions over Gibraltar’s status as a part of the UK. Our government has already said they would resist any attempt to renegotiate the status of Gibraltar, and this was reiterated by the Prime Minister’s spokesman today.
So, while it’s good news on the visas, it’s clear that reopening negotiations on the Withdrawal Agreement won’t come without its problems.