Private sector driving pragmatic Brexit solutions while Governments remain in deadlock ETOA summit concludes

  • Plan for the worst while hope for the best, travel industry told
  • Prepare for visas for cross-border staff
  • Companies need to audit staff nationalities to assess Brexit impact

The private sector is leading contingency planning that will prevent unprecedented delays at ports in the UK if the country leaves the EU with no deal on 29 March, an ETOA summit on Brexit revealed yesterday.

“We are approaching 550 different types of meetings and site visits about Brexit,” said John Keefe, Director of Public Affairs for Getlink UK, parent company of Eurotunnel. “The intent from both France and the UK is that we will maintain frictionless border.”

The UK Government has stated that land border controls for EU passengers, goods and services will stay the same. The EU remains bound to treat the UK non-member of the European Union. Existing legislation means passport controls adding 90 seconds of processing time for each passenger. The channel ports carry up to 60,0000 passengers per day, which would run into hundreds of hours of delays on day one.

Keefe revealed that predictions for serious delays has kickstarted a dialogue with regional French authorities such as Hauts-de-France.  “There is a glimmer of hope now hat conversations have begun. The intent is that we will run our business [post-Brexit] as we do today, with the same frequency of service.”

Neil Baylis, Senior Partner at K&L Gates, who reviewed the issues facing the industry including transport, financial bonding, consumer rights, visas and immigration, EHIC, passports, consumer rights and driving licenses said, “The British Government is ripping up the Open Skies agreement, and British airlines will have no automatic right to fly into EU airspace without a deal. I think that flights will carry on and free movement will not end, although there maybe prejudice against UK carriers not registered in the EU. I predict a sticking plaster to bring about pragmatic solutions.”

Last week, the National Audit Office reported that new border controls will not be ready on time and the Government’s admitted that the border will be ‘sub-optimal’ in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

Tom Jenkins, ETOA Chief Executive said: “If we have a no-deal Brexit, all passengers travelling from the UK into the EU will be subjected to extra immigration checks. Any delay will cause problems for everyone using the channel ports, to the extent that operating leisure tourism becomes impractical. We are calling for urgent reassurances that there will be no such delays.”

David Bennett, of Elman Wall Bennett, pointed out that there were severe tax implications for operators based in UK after Brexit. The Tour Operator Margin Scheme (TOMS) only applies to companies based within the EU. Outside businesses would have to register and file returns for every country in which they do business.

Neil Baylis, Senior Partner at K&L Gates told delegates that they needed to sit down with commercial partners to discuss whether they need a ‘Brexit clause’ in the case of undelivered services, to ensure that they are not liable for consequential loss. He believes it will take at least five years to agree a free trade agreement. He said: “It’s likely that a blind eye will be turned in some instances – for example for the need for British drivers to have international drivers licences, but we can’t assume that will be the case. Companies need to plan for the worst case scenario.”

Louisa Cole, from K&L Gates considered the implications for delegates’ business when it came to employment and immigration issues. Many of the guidelines for change are already up on the Government websites. Cole recommended ETOA members take an audit of their staff and their nationalities to assess the compliance costs of re3gistering all their non-British workers. Posted workers in the EU with UK employers will also need visas. Tour guides, who currently work within the EU ions will need work visas. Brexit will also shine a light on other non-EU guides.

Tom Jenkins said: “Many of the problems – and there are many problems – seem minor when confronted with the potential human impact on staff. There is an obvious loss in shrinking the talent pool of potential employees from 500 million people down to 60 million. More subtle and more difficult will be telling colleagues that they have to register as not properly belonging here. There is a sense of the bars coming down.”