Brexit: How to prepare for changes in 2021

By Cherry Wilson
BBC News Online

Getting ready for Brexit

Have you put renewing your passport, doing a money makeover and getting travel insurance on your New Year’s resolutions to-do list for 2021?

23.00 on Thursday 31 December marks the end of the transition period agreed between the UK and EU after Brexit.

The UK and the EU are still in talks to try and agree a deal – so all the new rules have not yet been finalised.

But even if you don’t run a business, there are some things you can do to get Brexit ready.

1. Check how long is left on your passport

For many of us, coronavirus restrictions this year have meant our passports have gathered dust in the back of the drawer.

We will no doubt be desperate for a holiday once the rules are lifted, and countries in the EU are top destinations for Brits travelling abroad. But you don’t want to turn up for that all-important flight only to be turned away from boarding at the very last minute.

After Brexit, you will need at least six months left on your passport before it expires, and it will need to be less than 10 years old or you might not be able to travel.

The new rules do not apply when travelling to Ireland. Read more on travelling to the EU after Brexit


2. Take out travel insurance

In the side of your wallet or purse, you might notice you have a blue card that has your name printed on it as well as the 12 stars that make up the European flag.

That’s your European Health Insurance card (Ehic) and it gives you the right to free emergency healthcare during a temporary stay in another EU country, and Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Switzerland.

For many Brits it may no longer be valid from 1 January 2021 and you will need to take out travel insurance – especially if you have a pre-existing medical condition.

Read more on the changes here.

3. Do a money makeover

Will it be cheaper to buy a house? Will the cost of fish, chips and gravy from the chippy go up? Will the interest on your bank loan or mortgage go down?

The simple answer is we don’t know yet how the end of the transition period will impact the UK economy, but it might be a good time to look at your personal finances and consider a money makeover.

The first thing to do is add up all the money you have coming in and going out so you know where your finances stand.

Then, top tips for saving money include checking you’re in the right council tax band, switching who you buy your gas and electricity from, and haggling before renewing things such as car insurance and mobile phone contracts.

You should also consider switching credit cards to get a cheaper rate and changing your bank account to one that offers cash to switch and better interest rates, says Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis.

4. Use a credit card when buying items online from the EU

British customers will still have 14 days to return unwanted online items they have bought from the EU, but from 1 January it might be more difficult to sort out any problems you have a dispute with a retailer, says consumer group Which?.

Brits will no longer be able to use the EU’s Online Dispute Resolution scheme, which gives consumers access to tools to help resolve a complaint, and it might also be more difficult to take a retailer to court in the UK.

So, if you’re able to, it’s worth buying items which cost between £100 and £30,000 with your credit card, according to Citizens Advice. This also applies to purchases you make while abroad.

This is because Section 75 protection applies, which guarantees that if you buy a product from the EU and you don’t receive it, you can claim the money back from your card provider.

5. Take your pet to the vet

If you want your furry friend to come on holiday with you to the EU or Northern Ireland, then you will need to take a trip to the vet first. That’s because the current EU pet passport issued in the UK will not be valid for travel from 1 January 2021.

Instead, pet cats, dogs (including assistance dogs) and ferrets will need an animal health certificate (AHC).

To get an AHC, your pet needs to be micro-chipped and vaccinated against rabies. The certificate will need to be signed by a qualified vet and you will need to get it 10 days before you travel. Find out more about the pet travel after Brexit here.

6. Check how much it will cost to use your phone

Ringing and texting family to ask whether it’s raining back home is an key part of many people’s holidays when sunning themselves abroad in the EU.

But you might want to check that you won’t get a nasty mobile phone bill when you return.

Free roaming is not guaranteed from next year so get in touch with your provider before you go to see if there will be any additional charges.

You can read more on roaming charges after Brexit here.

7. If you’re a British expat, check your bank

Thousands of British expats have been told their bank accounts could be closed once the Brexit transition period ends.

This is because UK banks will no longer be allowed to provide services to customers in the EU without the right banking licences.

Previously they have used a system known as passporting, which allows banks to trade freely in another other country in the European Economic Area (EEA) without the need for more authorisation.

But this will no longer be in place after 1 January so banks have been left needing to ensure they meet the rules for every EEA country’s regulators.

Some banks have decided it is not in their commercial interests to jump through these hoops and continue accounts for expats, so it may be worth checking with your bank as to whether you may be affected.

Read more on banking issues for British expats here.

Get an international driving permit

Whether it’s a road trip down the Italian coast or convenient way to get the kids around – many Brits like to drive while abroad in Europe.

After Brexit, you will still need to carry your UK driving licence and you may also need an international driving permit (IDP).

Drivers can get an IDP over the counter at the Post Office for £5.50.

You should also plan to carry a ‘green card’ to prove you have the right insurance to drive abroad. Contact your vehicle insurance provider six weeks before you travel.

The government recommends that you have a GB sticker on your car, even if you also have a GB symbol on your number plate.

You’ll need to carry your V5C log book with you if you own the car. If it is a car you have hired or leased, then you will need to get a VE103 form to show you have permission to take it out of the UK.

Read the more on driving abroad here.

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