Post-Brexit aftermath: travel chaos and stranded Britons

Wikimedia Commons /Christoph Scholz

As Britain officially leaves the European Union bloc and the UK citizens become third-country nationals, confusion rises in the airports around Europe. 

Spain denies entry

UK citizens flying to their homes in Spain have been stopped from boarding a joint British Airways-Iberia flight to Madrid as the carrier claimed their pre-Brexit residency papers were no longer valid. 

In an effort to contain the new COVID-19 mutation, Spain has banned all but Spanish nationals and residents flying from the UK to Spain on December 22, 2020. Even if the UK passengers had the green card as a proof of residency, some were still denied boarding the flight. 

“This should not be happening, the Spanish authorities have reconfirmed again this evening that the green residency document will be valid for travel to return to Spain as stated in our travel advice,” British Embassy in Madrid wrote in a tweet. 

Iberia issued a statement explaining that on January 1, 2021, it had received an email from border police ordering it to not recognize the proof of legal residency in Spain as a British national. However, the next day it received another one, confirming that documents could in fact be used, if they are not expired. 

Around 300,000 British citizens are registered as permanent residents in Spain.

Other EU countries follow

On January 1, 2021, thirteen British nationals were stranded at Amsterdam Schiphol Airport (AMS) as they were subject to the third-country coronavirus regulations and their trips were not essential, according to a Dutch border force spokesman Robert van Kapel.

“People from safe countries are allowed to pass, but the UK is certainly not a safe country right now,” Van Kapel said. He added that some travelers were going on a visit to Amsterdam or for a skiing holiday. “That’s just not the intention now,” Van Kapel said.

Germany banned the flights from the UK on December 20, 2020 and extended it to January 6, 2021. Travelers from the UK with a proof of residency in Germany could enter the country from January 1, 2021. However, a number of British citizens were banned from the entry into Germany, as Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) did not accept their residency permits. 

A spokesperson from Lufthansa (LHAB) (LHA) said that apart from a few difficulties “the vast majority of travel by air from and to the UK is still running smoothly.”

Travelers on the Ryanair flight to Pisa, Italy, also reported similar issues. 

The exact number of flights and passengers affected has not been released by the UK Foreign Office, reported the BBC News. 

Post-Brexit changes

Since the end of the Brexit transition period on January 1, 2021, Britons can travel to the EU only with a valid reason and if they have at least six months left on their passport. They are also no longer eligible to use the EU fast-track passport control. 

A passenger must be ready to present the return ticket and proof of their sufficient finances while staying in the EU country.

On December 24, 2020, the EU and the UK came to a last-minute agreement on trading relationships, avoiding the no-deal scenario. The new Brexit trading rules, which are supposed to ensure direct air connectivity between the two parties, came into force on January 1, 2021. 


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