How will Brexit affect European travel? All the rules you need to know - from passports to duty-free

While Covid restrictions and the traffic light system have dominated headlines around travel, Brexit will also present its own challenges. Here’s what you need to know, from travel writer Jeff Mills
Following the pandemic, Brexit comes with its own restrictions on travel (Graphic: Kim Mogg / JPI)Following the pandemic, Brexit comes with its own restrictions on travel (Graphic: Kim Mogg / JPI)
Following the pandemic, Brexit comes with its own restrictions on travel (Graphic: Kim Mogg / JPI)

While travel to the popular holiday countries of the European Union may still seem a distant dream, it’s worth spending some time checking what we can and can’t look forward to when the gates are eventually opened up and we’re allowed to head for the Continent’s resorts and beaches again.

Sadly, travel within the EU is now no longer quite as simple as it once was, in spite of some politicians’ assurances ahead of the Brexit vote that nothing much would change. But it’s not all bad news, so long as you know the new rules. And some of them are quite easily overlooked.

What are the post-Brexit rules on European travel?

Most people know by now that we’re only allowed to spend up to 90 days in any six-month period in the EU, and we can expect our passports to be stamped when we arrive in most holiday airports.


And we now need to make sure our passports not only have at least six months’ validity left but are also less than 10 years old.

If you applied for a new passport before your old one had expired, it may be that a few weeks or even months were added to the 10-year life of your new passport. Best check before you leave the UK.

Food and drink

But did you know you can no longer even take a sandwich for the journey, unless you eat it on the flight or the ferry before you arrive at your destination?

Under the rules even having a simple ham sandwich could land you in trouble at border control of an EU country. We are no longer allowed to take any food which contains meat or dairy products such as butter, cheese, ham and sausages.

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But it also includes any items which include meat or dairy products as part of their ingredients. This even applies to some sugary snacks such as chocolate, fudge and any sweets made with gelatine. So remember, while it may be OK to slip a jar of Marmite, which is apparently vegan, into your suitcase, you had better leave the Bovril, which contains beef extract, at home.


There is some reasonably good news though for those who enjoy the odd tipple, and indeed those who have popped over to the Continent with the car on the odd ‘booze cruise’ in the past.

While we are no longer allowed to bring virtually unlimited quantities of wine, beer and other alcoholic drinks into the UK, just as other Europeans are allowed to do when they cross their internal borders, we may bring fairly generous amounts of ‘duty-free’ drinks home with us.

The amounts you are allowed to bring back from EU countries are now in line with the limits from non-EU countries and the allowances have been increased, so you can bring back, for example, two cases (24 bottles) of still wine, a case of sparkling wine and three crates of beer before you have to start paying UK taxes.

So it may be worth teaming up with some friends and filling the boot with booze before too long. Just make sure you have an insurance ‘Green Card’ and a GB sticker for the car and take its registration documents with you.

Meanwhile, the news that new Health Secretary Savid Javid has been suggesting that travel to EU countries this summer will be possible without the need to self-isolate, with the launch of a new NHS app, which will demonstrate that people have been fully vaccinated, or indeed have suffered Covid, is welcome indeed.

But let’s not forget that many on the small, though growing, list of countries on the government’s so-called ‘green list’ are actually on a ‘green watch list’, which means they could be put back on the amber list with little or no notice, which hardly makes for a relaxing holiday if you are having to check all the time.

Have questions about travel? Let us have them in the comments below, or email [email protected], and we’ll do our best to answer them.

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