Brexit: visa-free access to the EU for UK nationals and to the UK for Europeans

Big Ben

(James Newcombe, Unsplash)

This article is brought to you in association with the European Parliament.

UK nationals would be able to enter the EU visa-free for short periods after the country’s exit, provided EU nationals enjoy the same conditions when travelling to the UK.

With 38 votes to 8 and 3 abstentions, Civil Liberties Committee MEPs backed on Wednesday a compromise with the Council on the proposal for a visa waiver for UK citizens once their country withdraws from the European Union. The text will be put to the vote in plenary on Thursday.

If approved, the legislation will apply from the day following the UK’s withdrawal from the European Union. From that date, UK nationals who are British citizens will not be required to have a visa for stays in the EU of up to 90 days in any 180-day period.

For that purpose, the United Kingdom will be included in the list of countries whose nationals do not need to request a visa to enter the EU for business, tourism or to visit relatives or friends. The visa exemption does not provide for the right to work in the EU.

No visa waiver without reciprocity

The text specifically states that the visa waiver will be granted to UK nationals on the basis of reciprocity, i.e. provided that EU nationals are also given visa-free access for short business or tourist trips to the UK if it becomes a non-EU country.

If the UK introduces a visa requirement for nationals of at least one member state, “the reciprocity mechanism foreseen in EU legislation should apply”, says the text. This may lead to visa requirements for UK nationals being reintroduced.


Sergei Stanishev (S&D, BG) , rapporteur for the proposal, said: “Today’s vote is an important step for guaranteeing the right to visa-free travel for European and British citizens after Brexit, especially in the case of no deal. It is no secret that the negotiations were blocked over the Gibraltar footnote, but in the end it was Parliament who demonstrated responsibility and put citizens’ interests first. The Council’s irresponsible approach seriously undermines the spirit of sincere cooperation between the EU institutions and I hope it will not be repeated in the future”.

Next steps

Following the endorsement by Council’s Committee of Permanent Representatives (COREPER) and the Civil Liberties Committee, the proposal will be put to the vote by the full House on Thursday 4 April. The legislation needs to be adopted and published in the Official Journal of the EU before 12 April, to prepare for a no-deal Brexit on that date.

The visa waiver will be applicable in all EU member states (except Ireland, which has its own visa policy) and in the Schengen associated countries (Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland). Ireland and the UK have a specific bilateral arrangement which provides for visa-free travel between the two countries.














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