On 31 December 2020, the transitional period set by the United Kingdom and the EU to try to reach an agreement on the future of their relationship once the United Kingdom ceased to be a member country on 1 February 2020 expired. The end of this transition provided for in the Withdrawal agreement meant that the United Kingdom ceased to participate in the European single market and EU customs union, as well as in the Union’s policies and programmes, and from benefiting from the Union’s international agreements.
After intense negotiations, on 24 December, Christmas Eve, the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, and Head of the Task Force, Michel Barnier, announced the conclusion of the Trade and Cooperation agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom. They view it as a balanced agreement that will prevent major disruptions from 1 January and one that will protect European interests. In order to adequately protect the interests of citizens and economic operators, the Spanish Government has approved a royal decree law adopting the contingency measures aimed at completing and implementing, at a national level, the provisions contained in the Trade and Cooperation Agreement.
How will tourism be impacted at the end of the transition period? This section aims to answer the main questions that may arise.
It is necessary to have a visa to travel to Spain from the United Kingdom?
No. As of 1 January 2021, UK nationals will remain exempt from the requirement to be in possession of visas when crossing the European Union’s external borders for short-term stays (up to 90 days in any 180-day period). This visa exemption does not provide for the right to work in the Union and is subject to the reciprocity mechanism applying to third countries.
Will there be any border controls?
As of 1 January 2021, UK nationals travelling to the European Union and the Schengen area will be treated as third-country nationals, and therefore subject to thorough checks at the Schengen area border. This means that intended stays in the territory of EU Member States cannot have a duration of more than 90 days in any 180-day period, and UK nationals will have to meet the entry conditions for third-country nationals.
What about if I travel with pets?
If you travel with pets you can continue to do so, but you will need the British health authorities to issue the corresponding animal health certificate and they will be required to enter the country at one of the airports or ports authorised to this effect. For more information, please see here.
Will my British driving licence be recognised in Spain?
As of 1 January 2021, driving licenses issued by the United Kingdom will no longer benefit from mutual recognition under Union law. In Spain, driving licences issued by the UK authorities that are valid and in force will enable their holders to drive in our country for a period of six months, as of 1 January 2021. After this six-month period, the arrangements for permits issued in third countries shall apply, in accordance with the rules in force concerning traffic, unless the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom reach a bilateral agreement recognising the exchange of their driving licenses.
Will I have access to the Spanish healthcare system?
Yes, provided that the United Kingdom acts reciprocally with Spanish nationals. Until 30 June 2021, persons entitled to healthcare in the United Kingdom or Gibraltar under the responsibility of the relevant entities will receive healthcare from the Spanish National Health System, in the same terms and subject to the same conditions as established prior to 1 January 2021. Individual health cards issued to citizens entitled to healthcare in the United Kingdom or Gibraltar residing in Spain will remain in force and will be fully effective until 30 June 2021 to receive healthcare services under the Spanish National Health System. If the individual does not have this health card, documentary proof of their right to healthcare issued by the British authorities must be presented to the Spanish National Social Security Institute.
In cases of temporary stay and scheduled treatments, documentary proof of health coverage must be provided by the corresponding entities, which will be accepted by all the healthcare centres that make up the National Healthcare System.
The dispensing of prescriptions for medical drugs issued in the United Kingdom shall remain in force under the terms set out in Royal Decree 1718/2010, of 17 December, on medical prescription and dispensing orders, provided that the United Kingdom acts reciprocally.