Last updated

12 July 2021 | UK Government to change sticker to be displayed on UK vehicles when driving in the EU (except in Ireland) from GB to UK from 28 September 2021.

The United Kingdom (UK) left the European Union (EU) on 31 January 2020, following the ratification of the withdrawal agreement by the EU and UK Parliament.


Members with queries or seeking further information are welcome to call us or email

The UK is no longer part of the EU’s Single Market or Customs Union. The Trade and Cooperation Agreement has been negotiated between the EU and the UK on the future trading relationship between the two parties. A Q&A of the agreement has been produced by the European Commission and a summary of the agreement produced by the UK Government. The UK Government has also published a summary of the new relationship with the EU.

Northern Ireland: As agreed in the Ireland and Northern Ireland Protocol, Northern Ireland in essence remains following EU rules for goods but for services UK rules apply. The agreement implementing the Protocol can be found here. The Protocol avoids a ‘hard border’ between Ireland and Northern Ireland. In addition, the Irish and UK governments have signed a Memorandum of Understanding reaffirming their commitment to the Common Travel Area maintaining free movement for British and Irish citizens between Ireland and the UK.

Below summarises changes affecting travel between the EU/EFTA states and the UK to help plan tour operations. Travel directly from the UK to other countries in Europe is not affected by Brexit. Members with queries or seeking further information please call us or email

Overall links to Guidance:

Visiting Schengen, Non-Schengen EU and UK

Border process

For all nationals (EU and non-EU) – published 26 February 2021


Visitors from EEA (EU plus Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway), Switzerland or the UK from 1 January 2021  

UK nationals visiting EU/EEA/Switzerland (leisure and short-term business visitor)
With the exception of Ireland where no time limit applies, UK nationals visiting the EU and EFTA states are limited to visa waiver stays of 90 days in a 180-day rolling period. EU non-Schengen states (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania) apply the 90 days in 180 rule, but time spent in these countries does not count towards time spent in the Schengen area (EU22 and EFTA).

EU/EEA/Swiss nationals visiting UK (leisure and short-term business visitor)
EU (excluding Irish) nationals visiting the UK do not require a visa for stays of up to 6 months.

For definition of short-term business visitor – please see Article SERVIN 4.3 and Annex SERVIN 3 of the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (pages 103 and pages 768-771) which includes attending meetings, trade fairs and some tour guide services.

For more information on rights and restrictions related to guiding, please see our Guiding Regulation page (access for ETOA members only – log in required)

  • Current UK issued European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) can still be used and remain valid in the EU until their expiry. A UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) will then be issued. Further information here.
  • For most UK nationals resident in the UK, UK issued EHICs are not valid in Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland. EU nationals resident in the UK and persons covered by the Withdrawal Agreement need to apply for the GHIC to receive treatment. However, a UK passport can be used for medically necessary healthcare in Norway.
  • EU, EEA and Swiss issued EHIC can still be used in the UK although visitors from Iceland, Liechtenstein or Switzerland may have to pay for treatment at 150% of the NHS rate. Further information here.
  • Surcharge-free roaming will no longer be regulated and guaranteed. Therefore, roaming charges may be re-introduced for EEA nationals in the UK and UK nationals in the EEA by mobile communication providers. Travellers are advised to check their mobile operator(s) roaming policy.
  • Should roaming charges be re-introduced, UK Government has legislated that charges are limited to £45 per monthly billing period unless the customer actively consents to continue spending. EU law is currently set to €50.


  • The UK Government has introduced a new ‘points based’ immigration system which applies to all non-UK nationals (ending free movement for EU nationals except for Irish or EU nationals resident in the UK prior to 1 January 2021).
  • Policy paper (24 May 2021) on future immigration and border control including new graduate route from summer 2021. Information on the Electronic Travel Authorisation (ETA) scheme for short stay visitors can be found on our visas and border page.
  • The UK is no longer participating in the Erasmus+ exchange programme. UK Government will introduce a new programme called Turing starting in September 2021. The UK will continue to participate fully in the current (2014-2020) Erasmus+ and ESC programmes for the full duration of the project.
  • The right for non-UK nationals to work permanently and temporarily in the UK is subject to the new immigration system unless covered by the Trade and Cooperation Agreement with the EU or bilateral agreements.
  • For instance, Switzerland and the UK have agreed (initially for 2021 and 2022) for Swiss service suppliers to deliver contracts in the UK in skilled sectors for up to 12 months in any 24 month period through the Tier 5 International Agreement visa.
  • Immigration rules for visitors including permitted business activities (where a visa is not required for up to 6 months per visit) can be found here.


  • Information issued by the UK Government can be found here covering living in EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
  • For a stay lasting more than 90 days a residence permit or a long-stay visa from the national migration authorities of the host EU country may be required (excluding Ireland). Check UK Government foreign travel advice.
  • UK nationals continue to not be subject to immigration restrictions to live in Irelandin accordance with the Common Travel Area agreement between Ireland and the UK.
  • All EU nationals (excluding Irish) resident in the UK before 1 January 2021 are required to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme before 30 June 2021. The scheme is free and only needs to be completed once.  
  • For EU nationals living in the UK for less than 5 years, pre-settled status will be granted; 5 years or more, settled status. Both offer broadly the same rights i.e. access to work and health but EU nationals with pre-settled status can only leave the UK for up to 2 years in a row without affecting their status (whereas for those with settled status the maximum is 5 years).  
  • EU nationals with status under the EU Settlement Scheme are not subject to the new UK immigration system implemented from 1 January 2021.
  • EU nationals with status under the EU Settlement Scheme will still be able to use a national identity card to enter the UK until at least 31 December 2025.
  • EU nationals (excluding Irish) are subject to the new UK immigration system. Please see Working section above.


  • Air transport has been agreed in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (page 237) and ‘point-to-point’ air services will continue between the EU and the UK.
  • Intra-EU by UK airlines or Intra-UK by EU airlines is not allowed on passenger services.
  • EU air passenger rights will continue to apply to flights operated from the UK to the EU by an EU airline, or to flights operated from the EU to the UK, whether operated by an EU or a UK airline. They will not however apply to UK-operated flights from the UK to the EU.
  • Ferry services from Great Britain to Ireland and mainland Europe continue to operate within the same regulatory framework as before, as international law governs these services.   
  • Cross border rail services in Ireland, and between England and mainland Europe continue to operate as usual (although there are regulatory changes not affecting travellers). Juxtaposed border controls also continue where in place.

Market Access

  • Occasional Services: The UK has joined the Interbus Agreement which allows coach tours covered by the agreement to continue between the EU and the UK and Albania, Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Moldova, North Macedonia, Turkey and Ukraine. This includes coach tours which both start and end in the coach operator’s home country, or tours which either start (subject to conditions) or end outside the coach operators home country. The Interbus Agreement considers the EU as one country. As such, the start or end of the tour can be in another EU state for EU operators. Further information can be found in Article 6 of the Interbus Agreement. 
  • Cabotage:
    • The Interbus Agreement does not cover cabotage services (pick up and set down of passengers outside the coach company’s home country).
    • The EU/UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement only allows for cabotage to take place on the island of Ireland. For example, UK coach operator (GB and N.I) can operate cabotage services in Ireland and EU coach operator (including Ireland) can operate cabotage services in Northern Ireland.
    • Pick up and set down of passengers is not allowed by UK coach operators elsewhere in the EU or by EU coach operators in Great Britain.
  • UK coach operators travelling through EU to non-EU non-Interbus countries: As agreed in the EU/UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, UK coaches can continue to travel through the EU to non-Interbus/non-EU countries such as Norway and Switzerland.

Coach Drivers

  • UK Government guidance states that UK national coach drivers will not require a work permit/visa but are subject to visitor rules in the Schengen Area (e.g. limited to 90 days in rolling 180 day period). EU national coach drivers employed or contracted outside the UK will also not require a work permit/visa for stays of up to 6 months in line with UK Government visitor rules (PA 9.3). For British and Irish nationals travelling between Ireland and the UK, there is no time limit due to the Common Travel Area. 

Further information from UK Government

  • UK licence photocard holders will not require an International Driving Permit (IDP) to drive in the EU or EFTA states. For a paper licence please see information here.
  • EU licence holders will not require an IDP to drive in the UK.
  • A green card (proof of insurance) is not required for EU licence holders travelling to the UK and UK licence holders travelling to the EU.
  • A UK trailer may need to be registered before being towed in some European countries. Further information is available here.
  • UK vehicles will need to display a UK sticker on the rear of the vehicle which has GB registration plates when travelling in the EU except in Ireland.
  • Further information from UK Government is available here.


  • UK version of TOMS (section 2.4) applies from 1 January 2021.   
  • The UK version is very similar to the current EU scheme, however UK businesses (including businesses in Northern Ireland) only pay VAT on UK travel to HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC).  
  • UK businesses trading in EU countries (although zero rated by UK HMRC) are still subject to VAT on EU travel and may need to register for VAT in each member state. UK businesses would then have to reclaim input VAT, and remit VAT on the price paid by the consumer. Further information can be found on our TOMS page.
  • European Commission guidance on VAT (services) overall is available here. 
  • We understand that EU businesses trading services in the UK (including Northern Ireland) will not have to pay UK VAT. This remains subject to review.     

Members can receive initial advice on a complimentary basis by contacting Elman Wall Bennett (contact details provided in the member area
hotline page) or please contact ETOA’s policy team for further information. Elman Wall Bennett’s newsletters can be read on our tax and tourism page.

UK to EU travel from 1 January 2021

  • Allowances and restrictions for goods brought into the EU from the UK have been re-introduced and are subject to customs checks and duty if over allowance.
  • Animal origin products such as ham and cheese are prohibited in a traveller’s luggage. Exceptions are provided for certain types such as infant food or for medical reasons. Further information from European Commission (section 4.1 and 5.3) and here.
  • Residents in Great Britain may be able to obtain a VAT refund on goods in an EU member state via the EU Retail Export Scheme. Further information here. Specific information for each EU member state here.
  • For businesses, European Commission guidance on VAT (goods) is available here. UK Government guidance can be found here. Please note Northern Ireland will maintain aligned with EU VAT rules for goods.

EU to UK travel from 1 January 2021

  • Allowances and restrictions for goods brought into the UK from the EU have started to be re-introduced and are subject to customs checks and duty if over allowance. Customs controls are being re-introduced in phases. Further information can be found in UK Border Operating Model.
  • Travellers from the EU to Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales) may continue to carry food items containing meat and dairy from the EU until July 2022, when controls will be put in place at GB passenger hubs (UK Border Operating Model page 312).
  • The VAT Retail Export Scheme ended in Great Britain on 31 December 2020. International visitors (EU and non-EU) are no longer able to obtain a VAT refund on items they buy in Great Britain and take home with them in their luggage (international visitors will still be able to buy items VAT-free in store if shipped directly to their overseas address).
  • The VAT Retail Export Scheme continues to operate in Northern Ireland. Further information here including if goods are then brought into Great Britain.
  • UK Government guidance on how to claim VAT refunds in the UK for EU businesses can be found here.


Further information: UK Government communication pack for travelling with goods to and from the UK 

Disclaimer: While best efforts have been made to verify the accuracy of the information, the information displayed on this page should be used as guidance only.