The UK Is Out

The UK is no longer a member of the EU and whilst a transition period was triggered from 11 pm on Friday night in which nothing much will change for the next 11-months, the UK has legally left the European Union after 47 years.

The EU and UK will lay out their opening positions on negotiations today, 3 February, with Michel Barnier, the EU’s Chief negotiator making a speech in Brussels stating that if the UK wants to make sure it has zero quotas and tariffs, then it has to ensure that there is a level playing field – ie the UK will need to stick to the EU’s rules.

Boris Johnson, the UK Prime Minister will set out an uncompromising negotiation position. He will ask for a loose Canada-style deal and will reject calls for the UK to align with the EU rules or let the European Court of Justice regulate trade relations.

As Mark Mardell of the BBC points out, historically trade deals strip out barriers in order for nations to get closer to the markets in which they want to trade. The UK, unusually, is already perfectly aligned with the EU and matches all their rules, so the decision now, is where to put up new barriers.

However, official talks start in March, but as it stands under UK law, they must be concluded by the week of November 26 to be signed off by the end of the year as the Government is determined to “get Brexit done” by December 31 despite the option to extend the transition.


ETOA Updates Brexit Advice and voices concerns beyond transition whilst heralding positive bookings for 2020

Delegates at the last Britain & Ireland Marketplace (BIM) before Brexit, held on 28 January, reported a buoyant outlook for 2020, tempered by a softening of bookings to UK & Ireland from Europe due to Brexit and cancellations from the Chinese market due to Coronavirus.

Tom Jenkins, CEO of ETOA said: “There are good market conditions for the UK and Ireland tourism sector in 2020. During the Brexit transition period, we have certainty. There will be no change to travel arrangements for visitors or workers during 2020 entering the UK or EU. There will also be no change to travel arrangements for non-EU nationals travelling to the UK. Transport between the UK and the EU also remains unaffected during the transition period.

“But we don’t yet know what the landscape will be beyond transition. The latest data from the ONS, suggests a real weakening of demand for the UK within Europe. Whether this is due to adverse feelings due to Brexit, or the possibility of border delays, or the benefit of a low pound wearing thin, is difficult to say. If the UK refuses to recognise entry for EU nationals carrying ID cards, that may also place a material block on some visitors, and we could see uncertainty return for 2021 bookings.”

ETOA also updated its Brexit advisory pages on its website.

UKInbound: 2020 set for record year, but with flat sales from Europe

Joss Croft, CEO of UKinbound said: “The inbound sector has seen very positive growth recently with visitor numbers up 5% to 10.7 million between August and October 2019, compared to 2018 numbers.

“The outlook for 2020 is also looking bright with many of our members reporting strong sales from long-haul markets. VisitBritain’s forecasts also indicate that 2020 is set to be a record year for inbound tourism to the UK, a prediction that is shared by many businesses in the industry.

We are concerned about flat sales from Europe at the moment, which we think is predominantly down to the Brexit ‘effect’ but VisitBritain will be undertaking extensive promotional activity in Europe post 31 January.”

Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd: ‘No Question UK Election Result Has Boosted Sales'

Speaking to TTG during a pre-launch tour of Celebrity Cruises’ Celebrity Apex at Chantiers de l’Atlantique shipyard in Saint-Nazaire on Tuesday 28 January, Chairman and Chief Executive of Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd Richard Fain said: “There is no question Royal Caribbean Cruises Ltd’s lines have seen increased sales and consumer interest from UK customers following the recent general election result.”

He said the corporation had enjoyed a boost in business since “the reality of Brexit” was realised after the 12 December vote. I think people hate uncertainty more than anything else [and] the uncertainty of Brexit was causing a great deal of problems.

“So whether you think Brexit is a good idea or not – and I don’t – it is now done, we’re moving on and I think you will see the British public dealing with the issue and getting on with it. We’re already seeing that with bookings.”

ABTA: ‘We’ll be back to Uncertainty’

A travel industry event last week hosted by law firm Travlaw saw senior industry figures expressing relief at new certainty around Brexit but fear at fresh uncertainty later in the year, reported Travel Weekly.

ABTA head of legal services Simon Bunce said: “The message that nothing is changing [for now] needs to be reinforced. Everything stays the same, but that is not the message the government is putting out. The government wants to say, ‘Things will be different’.

He warned: “At the end of the year, we’ll be back to uncertainty. We could face the same issues we’ve faced already.

“People will keep travelling. What we don’t want is for people to be surprised.”

Bunce suggested: “A big issue is that UK tour operators can sell [Atol-protected] packages across Europe currently. Unless something surprising happens, companies not registered in the EU will have to make arrangements to offer protection in each jurisdiction next year.”

Travlaw senior partner Matt Gatenby said: “We have this breathing space, but we’re not seeing information from the government and we need to look at things now.”

The UK intends to join the existing EU Interbus Agreement as an independent member post-Brexit, enabling UK operators to continue to offer coach holidays and tours.

Separately, Luke Petherbridge, Head of Public Affairs at ABTA said: “Now, as the UK government and EU enter trade agreement talks, ABTA will focus on highlighting industry priorities.

These include a comprehensive air service agreement to protect flights; replacing the mobility benefits of the Posted Workers Directive; and retaining reciprocal healthcare.”

Peaks Market Buoyant

Advantage Travel Partnership leisure director Kelly Cookes said: “We see the light at the end of the Brexit tunnel. The peaks market is buoyant and we’re seeing double-digit growth.”

Increase in staycations

Travel Weekly reports that an increasing demand for staycations is being claimed by Sykes Holiday Cottages with a 20% rise in bookings for summer 2020. The independent holiday home provider saw its busiest booking day ever on January 12, with 30% more bookings taken than on the corresponding day in 2019.

BTA Brexit Update

Political correspondents from The Independent and The Daily Mirror updated delegates on Brexit at the Business Travel Association’s conference last week, reported Travel Weekly.

Ben Kentish from The Independent said that “Boris Johnson has put it in law that he won’t extend the [Brexit] transition period. I would expect there to be a bare-bones deal that won’t cover services.”

Gareth Morgan, BTA public affairs advisor and Cavendish Communications director, told the conference: “The government is going to have to decide which sectors it opens up [to the EU].

“Real decisions will have to be made that will alienate some communities.”

For example, Morgan said: “Fishing is 0.12% of the economy, financial services are 6.9%.”

He suggested the government would struggle to meet its objectives of ‘levelling up’ the UK regions with London through investment in major infrastructure projects such as high-speed rail (HS2).

Sophie Griffiths from TTG also highlighted that the Government announced that Brits travelling for business could face further challenges.

Migration Advisory Committee urges government to lower salary threshold

The Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) report on Salary Thresholds and a Points Based System urged the government to lower the salary threshold figure to £25,600 on Tuesday 28 January.

Both ABTA, ETOA and UKInbound are lobbying on the issue, with Joss Croft of UKInbound saying: “A reduction in the proposed salary threshold from £30,000 to £25,600 (and from £20,800 to £17,920 for new entrants), whilst welcome, will not solve the skills shortage issue in an industry where the average full time wage is £23,000; and the rejection of the inclusion of part time workers (whose average salary is £17,000 and on which the industry relies to a significant extent) will also be detrimental.”