Brexit mess won’t put paid to your pilgrimage plans
Michael J. Winterbottom
It is now over two years since the UK voted to leave the EU, and as the never-ending saga that is Brexit continues to struggle on there can be precious few corners of our lives that have not been brought into the debate. Recently even its impact on religious pilgrimages has come under its spotlight, and many of our readers have been contacting The Catholic Universe for advice ahead of their pilgrimages abroad.
For an inside view on Brexit’s impact on this section of tourism I spoke to John Tangney, company chairman of leading pilgrimage organisers, Tangney Tours.
Despite what some have said in the media, John was adamant that our departure from the European Union would create no real challenge for pilgrims as long as they make proper preparations for their overseas journeys after Brexit.
He explained: “Booking by air should be either direct with the airline by credit card, or with an ATOL protected travel company. For those not travelling by air, then the travel company should be a member of ABTA, and ideally any package holidays or pilgrimages should have both accreditations.”
The European Health and Insurance Card (EHIC) has also been the subject of much debate and I asked John for his views on it: “There is still no concrete news about this, but it is unlikely that the EU visitors to the UK would want this facility to end, any more than we do from the UK.
“However, all travellers should also have a good travel insurance policy regardless of the answer to the EHIC question, as the card does not cover such items as repatriation home after an accident or illness, and you certainly need insurance to cover you for cancellation,lost baggage and much more.”
All well and good but that’s to no avail if airlines are grounded in the wake of our departure. However, British airlines flying to the EU or any other countries “will have no problems”, explains John, but “it is possible that airlines registered in Germany, for instance, may have difficulties flying from the UK to Spain, or a British airline might have difficulty flying from France to Italy.”
“But with forward preparation travel companies can easily get around this by ensuring that all their flying contracts are all with UK registered airlines, or with airlines registered in the country of destination. So we don’t anticipate any problems at all.”
With the great British love of animals the matter of ‘Pet Passports’ is never far from many people’s minds but again, Brexit should create no issues, as far as John is concerned. “Pet passports are only required for entering the UK. We welcome a number of assistance and guide dogs every year, and are looking forward to them and more travelling with us this summer. No government official has suggested the UK will stop recognising them.”
John was also keen to point out that pilgrims who need to take a carer or helper with them on their pilgrimage should always check with their liability insurance when taking a person in their care abroad, but this shouldn’t be an issue at all.
But what does the future hold for the tour operators themselves, and have they had to register in what will be the new EU. “Tagney Tours, along with other UK operators, has a company registered in another EU country, in fact Tangney Tours is also registered in France, and all our European-based staff, in Lourdes, Rome, Fatima, etc, are employed by that company, so are well placed to continue the services that we have traditionally provided for our clients.”
As an added insurance policy John’s company, along with many other travel companies, has “already purchased a large proportion of the currencies that they will need to pay for their clients’ hotels, coach transfers and much more.”
The Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) agrees with John’s views. Their spokesperson told me that, “while some things may change after Brexit, whether there is a deal or not, there’s no reason to be concerned when booking a pilgrimage.
“There’s nothing to suggest holidays and pilgrimages won’t go ahead as planned next year, we’re heading into the travel industry’s sales period, when some of the best deals and discounts are available, so we want people to carry on booking as normal.”
Abta added: “European destinations want to continue to welcome UK citizens; it’s a very big market for them.”
And as for travelling by plane, the government has said that “flights should continue” as they do today, if there is no deal, adding: “Both the UK and EU want flights to continue without any disruption.
“Flights will be able to go and come back again and fly over the EU, she added.”
I also asked her about documentation: “The European Commission has said that even in a no-deal scenario, UK travellers won’t need a visa. But British people will need to apply for and buy another document to travel to member states, post-Brexit. The ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System), which will cost €7 (£6.30) and is valid for three years, won’t come into force until 2021, however.”
One area that may change, however, centres around driving. If you were going on a pilgrimage and thinking about hiring a car while you were in the EU, you may require an international driving permit (IDP). If you are thinking about driving your own car on the continent post-Brexit, there are a number of extra documents you will need to carry, particularly if the UK leaves without a deal. These include an insurance green card to highlight you have cover in place and car documents. For a full list of motoring documents and possible changes, see https://www.gov.uk/prepare-eu-exit and click on the link Going and being abroad.
So, for the time being, you can carry on planning your European trip, on a pilgrimage to to the beach, without any extra documents. Under the Brexit deal, EU citizens and UK nationals will continue to be able to travel freely with a passport or identity card until the end of the transition period in 2020.
When that ends, the European Commission has offered visa-free travel for UK nationals coming to the EU for a short stay, as long as the UK offers the same in return.
As a final message to readers of The Catholic Universe John suggests any would-be pilgrims or holiday makers should go ahead and make their booking as soon as possible, promising that “everything booked now is 100 per cent safe and guaranteed, provided that the precaution of booking with a reputable and licensed travel company has been taken.”Tags: ABTA, ATOL, Brexit, EU, European Travel Information and Authorisation System, Pilgrimages, Tangney Tours, The European Health and Insurance Card, travel, travel insurance, UK