Businesses should prepare for “significant changes” from January 1 and not expect the Brexit transition period to be extended, Abta head of public affairs Luke Petherbridge has warned.

Petherbridge told Abta’s Travel Convention: “I don’t believe we’re heading for an extension.”

He was responding to Giles Hawke, Cosmos and Avalon Waterways chief executive, who told a Convention workshop on Brexit Preparedness: “I’m hoping the government will extend the transition period. I don’t think many businesses are going to be ready.”

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Petherbridge said: “We’re back to a similar place we were a year ago. The lack of clarity is a big challenge.

“We continue to speak to government about contingency plans to facilitate travel in the event of no deal. Boris [Johnson] has always said if there is no deal by October 15, the government would look at contingency plans.”

He added: “We’ve partnered with the Foreign Office on its communications and our communications efforts will increasingly focus on maintaining consumer confidence.”

Petherbridge said: “Whatever happens now, we face pretty significant changes to what has been before.”

He warned: “It doesn’t look as though we’re heading for a positive outcome on posted workers. The government has made clear they want a very basic agreement with the EU with no replacement for the Posted Workers’ Directive.

“Our advice to businesses is to hire staff locally for this winter. Beyond that, we’re looking to destination partners and at the youth mobility scheme which means people under 30 can travel for up to two years.”

Petherbridge added: “The Pet Passports issue is a challenge. Vets have no clue what they should do at the moment.”

Hawkes told the workshop: “We’re hoping there will be a deal as no deal would throw everything into disarray.”

He insisted: “One of the most important things is communication to customers, particularly those due to travel soon after January 1.

“We can’t communicate with customers enough. We almost need to have ‘Make sure your passport is valid’ and ‘Make sure you have travel insurance’ more prominent than the holiday details.”

Hawkes said: “The next thing is to make sure we’re operating legally from January 1. Alongside that is looking after people. We have hundreds of staff overseas. So customers, compliance and people are the areas we’re focused on.

“The only silver lining I see is that, with Covid, we’re not going to see so many people away on January 1.”

Journalist and broadcaster Simon Calder described Brexit as “a brazen piece of political opportunism” and insisted: “The government doesn’t give a monkey’s about the travel industry. The industry is not going to get any help from the government.”

He warned: “I fear from day one, people will be turned away from airports because their passport was issued more than nine years six months ago.

“Many people will find a long stay abroad no longer feasible because they were relying on their European Health Insurance (EHIC) Card. Your driving license is toast, and with pets we just don’t know.”

Calder said: “All the travel industry can do is to communicate this.”

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