Agents attending The Travel Network Group’s conference were warned to “keep their fingers crossed” that the UK pens a Brexit withdrawal agreement with the EU, but “plan for the worst” regardless.
Speaking at a breakout seminar on Brexit, travel lawyer Rhys Griffiths of Fox Williams said that although flights will run in any scenario consumers will seek reassurance.
Prime minister Theresa May last week agreed with EU leaders to postpone the UK’s exit from the European Union, which had been scheduled for March 29.
It will wait until May 22 if her deal, which has already been rejected by MPs twice, is approved by parliament this week.
If her deal is rejected for the third time, the UK could leave with no deal on April 12 – two weeks after the original date agreed when Article 50 was introduced.
Griffiths said: “If I was a travel agent operating in this space, I would hope for the best but plan for the worst so that whatever happened you are ready to deal with it.
“No matter what your political views are, it would be better for businesses to have a smooth and orderly exit and something that amounts to a transition period.”
He added: “A no-deal Brexit is still a realistic possibility, the Europeans believe this is becoming more likely by the day. This will be particularly disruptive in the travel industry because it will affect the free movement of people we have as a member of the EU – we will lose these automatic rights.
“That will have an impact on your customers wanting to go on holiday. They are going to want information and reassurance about their situation. So a huge part of getting ready for Brexit is understanding the issues properly so you can explain those issues to your customers.”
Griffiths said he believes “common sense has prevailed” with a 12-month extension to the Open Skies agreement the UK enjoys with the EU.
“We can be confident that flights will continue between the UK and EU in a no deal Brexit situation. But we should keep our fingers crossed that a deal is struck.”
He also warned agents that customers renting cars will need an International Driving Permit, which can be bought over the counter at a Post Office for £5.50, and warned that those driving UK-registered cars in the EU will be required to have a GB sticker.
He also expects longer queues at EU airports in the event of a no deal.
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