UK industry concerns are multiplying as Brexit talks remain at an impasse, threatening lengthy queues at airports, restrictions on staff movement and volatile exchange rates if Britain exits the EU with no deal.
Tom Jenkins, chief executive of the European Tour Operators’ Association, warned: “The situation is incredibly fragile and dangerous.”
A survey by the UK Association of Bonded Travel Organisers’ Trust (Abtot) found high levels of concern among members.
Abtot asked its 170-plus operators to rate their concerns on a scale of one to 10 and identified the impact on exchange rates as the greatest worry with a 7.7 rating.
Falling out of the EU open-skies agreement, which facilities flights, and restrictions on free movement of staff rated 5.9 each, with fear of restrictions on the free movement of travellers at 5.5.
Jenkins said: “I can’t believe flights will be grounded [and] I assume we won’t face delays for people going to and from Europe, but that is an assumption.”
He highlighted three concerns: on borders, staff deployment and the Tour Operator’s Margin Scheme (TOMS) covering VAT payments.
Jenkins said: “The expectation is we’ll move to non-EU immigration lines from the end of March, meaning questions about the purpose of a visit, which takes longer than current passport checks.
“The queues at Heathrow for non-EU nationals are already unacceptable. What will happen what that is multiplied 10-fold? We have no answer.”
He said: “There is a huge question as to what happens with posted workers. We assume there will be a transition period, but we’ve received no clarification.
“And outside the customs’ union, [tour operators] will be obliged to register for VAT in every county they do business in.”
Abtot members also warned of higher prices for consumers.
Nick Parkinson, a solicitor with Travlaw, which helped carry out the Abtot survey, said: “It’s unclear what the government’s intentions and expectations are in respect of travel services [and] it’s unclear what the full implications will be on the industry in the event of no deal.”
UK travel association Abta hosted Brexit minister Robin Walker at a members’ meeting on Monday.
Chief executive Mark Tanzer welcomed the “regular, constructive dialogue with officials”, but said: “There are issues which need to be addressed. We need an outcome that ensures continuity and stability.”
Walker said: “Tourism is of huge importance to the UK economy. I was pleased to update attendees on the work we’re doing to support the industry.”
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