If you haven’t heard about the U.K.’s heated debate on cutting ties with the European Union—dubbed a “Brexit”—you certainly will this week. Britons headed to the ballot box on Thursday and made the historic decision to leave the European Union.
The vote came less than one week after Brexit-opposing Member of Parliament Jo Cox was killed, allegedly by a suspect who said in court: “Death to traitors, freedom for Britain.” And now Prime Minister David Cameron has confirmed that he will resign as a result of the new measure. Britain has undoubtedly been thrust into a turbulent time, as the British pound’s value tumbled a whopping 11 percent in the hours that followed the vote, and the exact trade, travel, and immigration changes to come have yet to be decided.
The legislation that will now follow could change everything about traveling to and from the United Kingdom. Here’s what you need to know about the Brexit’s implications, and how it could affect you.
Budget Flights No More?
It’s hard to say right now what exactly the Brexit will change and to what degree, but it has the potential to change how we access the U.K. from Europe and beyond. This is increasingly important to Americans as budget and low-cost airlines like WOW and Norwegian Air offer U.S. flights to England through European cities like Paris and Copenhagen—airlines might now reconsider those routes. The new measure surely means reassessing trade agreements as well as immigration and travel requirements.
Catherine Barnard, a Cambridge professor of European Union law told the Guardian before the vote that if “the U.K. enters only a free trade agreement without free movement of persons or services, tourism is likely to be affected. Tourism (based on number of visits) from Europe to the U.K. is more than double that of tourism from the rest of the world.”
Increased Entry Requirements
Restricting free movement would mean imposing more fees or visa requirements for entry to better monitor immigration and travelers. I personally think this is unlikely since England already suffers from price competition with Europe—it’s much more expensive to visit the U.K. thanks to airfare taxes, strong currency, and high costs of living in cities like London. Despite this, London was named TripAdvisor’s top Traveler’s Choice destination this year, and is consistently one of the most-visited cities among world travelers—so perhaps Britain could afford to up their entry requirements.
Barnard also pointed out to the Guardian that the U.K. could alternatively opt for less extreme measures—simply “doing a Norway” by entering a free-trade agreement that overhauls their economic relationship with European countries but still allows free movement in and out of the E.U. This would likely still be bad news for Britons, since many experts have predicted that cutting those trade ties could send the U.K.’s economy into a downward spiral, and probably a recession. This seems to be true so far, with the country’s currency in free-fall.
While that might seem like a good thing for world travelers ready to see British currency weaken, the vote is already shaking up worldwide markets and signaling trouble for the economies bolstered by U.K. partnerships, especially in Europe. Great Britain is an economic super power, and it wont be clear which countries will suffer from a Brexit until the extremity regulations are decided and the dominoes fall where they may.
There’s Still Time
Developing the exit strategy will take at least two years, which is a crucial time for making decisions about the above concerns.
The only thing that’s clear right now is just how much—travel, immigration, currency value, cheap flight routes, shifting international relations—is riding on England’s coming decisions.
More from SmarterTravel:
- Have a British Experience Without the Pound
- What a Worldwide Travel Alert Means
- Why European Travel May Soon Get Complicated
Associate Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her adventures on Instagram @shanmcmahon.