Millions of Britons whose passports are due to expire in the next year are being urged to apply for a new one now, as part of a stepping up of efforts to prepare for the end of the Brexit transition period.
Holidaymakers travelling to popular European destinations from Jan 1 will be required to have six months validity on their travel documents, which is likely to cause a stampede of renewals at UK passport offices.
It’s estimated that some five million UK citizens have passports which are valid for less than a year, meaning they should act now in order to travel in the new year.
Those who do not renew in time will “not be able to travel to most EU countries” as well as Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland.
It comes as the Government today (Mon) launches a new £93 million public information campaign “The UK’s new start: let’s get going” to help Britons prepare for life outside the EU.
Adverts will be launched across television, radio and online, with key information also relayed by text message.
One such change means that those planning to go abroad with pets in January will need to act by September to ensure they are able travel.
Pet owners will need to prepare their animals for travel four months before they set off, as the existing pet passport scheme will no longer apply.
New rules could mean that cats, dogs and ferrets will need to have a blood sample taken by a vet and shipped to an EU-approved blood-testing laboratory before being able to cross borders.
Drivers may also need an international driving permit to get around in European countries, with UK-owned vehicles potentially requiring a “green card” or valid proof of insurance.
Britons are also advised to take out “appropriate travel insurance with healthcare cover” before venturing abroad, as European Health Insurance Cards (EHIC) will no longer be valid after Dec 31.
Visas will not be needed for short trips across the EU but may need to be arranged for longer stays.
UK citizens will be able to stay in European nations for up to 90 days in any 180-day period. Visas or permits could be required to stay for longer, travel for business, or to work or study.
Britons should also check their mobile phone roaming policy, as free coverage may end.
Businesses will also be able to contact a “field force team” for one-to-one support over the phone to help businesses navigate the new procedure.
And firms planning to export or import to the EU will be told to ensure they have registered with the relevant customs authority.
Some UK-wide guidance will not apply to trade between Northern Ireland and the EU until negotiations have concluded.
Initial guidance for Northern Ireland is expected to be published in the coming weeks.
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said: “At the end of this year we are leaving the single market and customs union regardless of the type of agreement we reach with the EU. This will bring changes and significant opportunities for which we all need to prepare.
“While we have already made great progress in getting ready for this moment, there are actions that businesses and citizens must take now to ensure we are ready to hit the ground running as a fully independent United Kingdom.”
Meanwhile, Justin King, the former CEO of Sainsbury’s, insisted that a no deal trade agreement would not be a “disaster”.
“Whilst that is true, I don’t believe that it is the disaster we should all fear. I would consider a hastily agreed soft Brexit much more likely to be the worst of both worlds and an outcome we should avoid.
“A willingness to embrace no deal as a possibility is also an excellent negotiating tactic, and an option I therefore expect to stay on the table right up to the moment a deal is concluded.”