Sunday, July 17, 2016

British Exit from EU: Cheaper Travel, but killer phone roaming charges?

This coming June 23, the United Kingdom will once again revisit an issue that was first settled in 1975 regarding the country’s continuing membership in the European Economic Community / Common Market, now known as the European Union. While the referendum held that year upheld the UK’s EEC membership since it joined two years earlier in 1973, the passing of an act in 2015 calling for a new referendum no later than 2017 has the British electorate once again being asked to vote on whether or not to still remain with the EU.

The looming possibility of Britain leaving the Union, colloquially known as “Brexit” (“Britain Exit”), has got the attention of world governments and analysts of every stripe as the referendum date draws near. BBC News has prepared an informative feature on the subject on their website. While the UK in general had been amenable to being joined with the rest of Europe in what was originally formed as an economic union, the 1993 treaty turning the EEC into the more political EU had notable British individuals, advocacy groups, and primarily the Conservative Party and the UK Independence Party expressing concerns regarding the encroaching control of the rest of Europe over the government and way of life in the UK.

Prime Minister David Cameron, who announced the June referendum to the public last February, has expressed the opinion that it was time for the British people to have their say, and to settle this European question in British politics.

One of the sectors which could be affected by a successful Brexit (that is, the UK saying NO to continued EU membership) is in international travel. The Bloomberg news agency released their own feature discussing the consequences Brexit might have on travel conditions to and from the UK.

For instance, as an EU member, the UK places few restrictions on travelers from fellow EU countries, enabling them to move quickly through customs in international airports such as London’s Heathrow. With the UK gone from the Union, EU travellers will get lumped with the rest of the non-UK passengers, threatening very slow customs lines more akin to New York’s JFK.  On the other hand, people travelling by cruise ship or by high-speed train through the Chunnel will find that not much is going to change in their usual customs and immigration routine.

Next, projected financial upheavals in the UK following a Leave vote might translate to affordable vacation expenses for international tourists in the UK, and eventually similar discounts in Mediterranean EU locations. Conversely, while spending while already there will be reduced, the costs of actually travelling to and from the UK may skyrocket as British carriers renegotiate their rates with the rest of the EU now that they are not covered by Union legislation. Speaking of which, this could also have an impact on the UK’s customer protection benefits now that they would no longer have to toe the same line as the EU (which has top of the line protection), and there is the possibility of a drop in travel taxes.

Lastly, a UK out of the EU could mean hefty prices for mobile phone roaming. Of course, these are all mere speculation for now, but when the June 23 referendum date comes and goes, a clearer picture of UK-EU relations will soon come to light.

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