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How will Brexit impact ski holidays?

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 6 days ago Telegraph Ski and Snowboard
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Since the British public voted to leave the European Union in June 2016 there has been a near-constant stream of warnings and advice for travellers concerned with how Brexit will affect their holiday plans.

It could be seen as a particularly pressing problem for skiers and snowboarders as the proposed date for Brexit, March 29, is just before the final few weeks of the ski season, including Easter holidays.

Initial concerns that travelling to Europe could grind to a halt have eased but there is likely to be some disruption – particularly in the case of a no-deal Brexit.

If a deal is agreed there will be a 21-month transition period where everything should remain pretty much the same while specific rules are thrashed out between EU and UK negotiators. The main problem in the event of no deal is likely to be longer queues at borders.

Whether it’s a deal or no deal for Brexit, here we answer some of the most common questions, from what happens to holidays booked for this season, to whether British workers will still be welcome in the Alps.

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Will my March/April ski holiday be disrupted?

Deal or no deal, there should be no impact to the journey to a ski resort before March 29, whether travelling by ferry, train, car or plane, because it’s before the Brexit deadline. On the return, all forms of transport should run but there may be increased checks on passports at borders, leading to longer waits in queues.

Tour operators expect British staff working in resorts to be able to continue until the end of the season under existing arrangements. Next season is a different matter – see below.

Will the holiday I’ve booked with a tour operator be cancelled?

Whether booked for this winter or next, the holiday should be safe. Dan Fox, managing director of Ski Weekends said: “All of the information we have coming through from the Government and advisor bodies suggests it will be business as usual following any Brexit deadline, including a no deal scenario. There’s no obvious reason why holidays will be cancelled.”

Holidaymakers booking packages with an Atol-bonded tour operator benefit from the greatest security. The Association of British Travel Agents (ABTA) has said: “Your holiday will be protected under the Package Travel Regulations, meaning you have a right to a full refund if your holiday can no longer be provided.”

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The tour operator will also be responsible for offering an alternative trip if the original booking can’t go ahead. The Government has confirmed that the Package Travel Regulations will remain in UK law after leaving the EU.

ATOL also protects holidaymakers should a holiday company cease trading – a fate some smaller chalet companies have already faced, citing Brexit and the weakening of the pound against the euro. While these companies were not bonded, customers of Ski-Val, an ATOL protected company with chalets in Val d’Isère in France and St Anton in Austria that ceased trading March 13, will be.

Will there be any changes to my holiday after Brexit?  

In the short term, no, but the long-term situation is less certain – however it’s not all about Brexit. In the last couple of years, France and Austria have been clamping down on foreign tour operators to make sure they comply with existing local labour laws for seasonal workers.

This has already prompted some chalet holiday operators, such as Inghams and Ski Total, to reduce the number of catered evening meals from six to five, so that they can ensure staff’s working hours don’t exceed the maximum allowed each week, without increasing staffing costs.

If the UK leaves the EU with a deal, similar arrangements may continue, under a continuing reciprocal arrangement. If there’s no deal, a reciprocal arrangement could still be made, however insurance broker MPI said in a recent newsletter that this is unlikely and that “the knock-on effect on the ski chalet market… will be significant”.

Dan Fox from Ski Weekends agrees: “If we leave the EU without a deal, or if there is no provision for a quick and easy route for our UK-based season workers to be seconded to France, then we would have to employ EU citizens to run our chalets and this will increase the costs due to higher social welfare charges.” But he says the company is confident it has already mitigated against these costs.

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Will I be able to drive in Europe?

If there is a deal then during the 21-month transition period everything should stay as it is now, and it should be possible to continue driving to the Alps under existing rules – an option that is particularly popular with skiing families because of advantages like being able to take more luggage.

However, deal or no deal, the Government advises UK citizens driving their vehicle within the EU to obtain a physical Green Card from their insurer, which shows they have at least the minimum insurance cover required for driving in the EU. Insurers may charge a small fee for issuing the card, to cover administration costs.

In the event of no deal, UK driving licences may no longer be valid in the EU, with British drivers required to obtain an International Driving Permit for the relevant country, obtainable at main Post Offices for £5.50.

Will my passport be valid for travel to the EU after Brexit?

Travellers visiting the EU after March 29 are advised to have a passport with at least six months of validity from date of arrival to permit unrestricted travel. The Home Office also warns of another rule change, which could catch out seemingly-organised travellers in the event of a no deal Brexit.

“If you renewed a passport before it expired, up to nine extra months may have been added to your new passport’s expiry date,” reads a statement on the Home Office website. “Any extra months on your passport over 10 years may not count towards the six months that should be remaining for travel to most countries in Europe.”

The Home Office has created a tool to help travellers check the validity of their passport: passport.service.gov.uk/check-a-passport.

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Will I need a visa?

No. However, the European Commission has announced that from 2021 British citizens will need to pay a fee – expected to be €7 (£6) – for visa-exempt travel. It will likely be valid for several years, in the same way that a US ‘Esta’ permits travel to America.

Is it safe to book my ski holiday for winter 2019/20 now?

Many British ski operators, including the largest, Crystal Ski Holidays and Inghams, are already taking bookings for 2019/20 ski holidays. A spokesperson from Crystal Ski said: “No matter what happens with Brexit we will operate our holidays to the EU as planned and we are not making any changes to our winter programme for next season including our chalet programme. We will not increase the price of our holidays after they have been booked so Crystal Ski Holidays’ customers can continue to book their holidays in confidence with us.”

Managing director of Le Ski, Nick Morgan said: “Prices are all set for next season and there have been increases of course. Our guests understand that our costs in all areas from aviation to staffing to food and wine have risen sharply and they accept the need to pay more for continuity and quality. We are over 10 per cent booked out for next season already.”

Not all tour operators are so bullish. Fiona Easdale from Val d’Isère specialist chalet operator YSE said: “Until we know what costs are going to be we can’t produce prices. We can’t know that until we know what the Brexit deal is.”

Will ski holidays cost more after Brexit?

Yes, they will inevitably increase in 2019/20. However, they won’t increase for the end of this season and due to nerves over Brexit, skiers prepared to book a last-minute deal might be able to bag a bargain.

Tour operators say much of the price increase for next season will be the result of annual inflation, unaffected by Brexit, as well as France and Austria’s tightening of employment laws for seasonal British workers.

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Will I be covered by my travel insurance if I get injured on the slopes?

As with any insurance issue, being covered is very much dependent on the exact circumstances and the level of cover you have, but the policy itself is not at risk. Insurance broker MPI said: “Insurance policies will remain in force after we exit the EU but premiums are likely to rise over time.” 

The advice from ABTA stresses the importance of checking levels of travel insurance cover: “It is important that whenever and wherever you travel you have adequate travel insurance which covers your specific needs, including any known medical conditions or activities you plan to do. It is also worth checking the detail of the policy around travel disruption including delays or cancellations as policies do vary.”

Will I still be able to use my EHIC card?

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) gives UK citizens free or reduced-cost treatment in other EU countries. The Government has signalled an intention to keep the scheme – or a similar one – going.

However, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, NHS advice is that UK registered EHICs may not be valid, and holidaymakers are advised to make sure they have their own appropriate travel insurance whatever happens. Travel insurance is necessary even if the EHIC system is still operational, since there are limitations to the cover EHIC provides.

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Will I still be able to work in European resorts during the ski season?

If a deal is struck then it’s possible that reciprocal arrangements for British workers wanting to work a season in ski resorts will continue, at least for the next winter. If there is no deal then it’s a real possibility British companies will not be able to send staff abroad. Past reports have suggested that up to 25,000 seasonal holiday jobs could be lost winter and summer because of changes to employment laws.

Will I still be able to use my phone data and minutes at no cost?

We won’t be entitled to free roaming after Brexit. But Vodafone and Three have agreed to continue it, and the Government now says it may cap data charges at £45 a month for operators that do not.

Will there still be snow next season?

Arguably the question of how much snow will fall in European ski resorts is an even more burning question for diehard skiers and snowboarders than the potential outcomes of Brexit. Unfortunately it’s likely to be just as unpredictable.

Gallery: Skiing Is Only Half the Fun at These Beautiful Ski Destinations Around the World [Travel + Leisure]

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