TRAVEL INDUSTRY GEARS UP FOR EU TRADE TALKS
5th February 2020 | Jane Peel, Chief Reporter
Last modified on February 9th, 2020
The Travel Association ABTA is stepping up its work on behalf of the industry to ensure its voice is heard in the post-Brexit trade talks.
ABTA has identified three priorities:
- ensuring sufficient mobility benefits for seasonal workers, such as ski chalet hosts and resort staff
- retaining reciprocal healthcare agreements
- getting a comprehensive air service agreement to protect flights
ABTA says the UK government also needs to open discussions with third countries, including Switzerland, around access for occasional coach services.
After leaving the EU last week, the UK is in a transition period until 31st December.
What happens from 1st January 2020 will be determined by the talks on the future relationship between the UK and the EU which are due to get under way soon.
“The UK has now entered a period of transition until at least the end of December 2020, while the UK and EU negotiate a future relationship,” Luke Petherbridge, ABTA’s Head of Public Affairs said.
“During this time nothing will change for travellers or travel businesses.
“The risk of no-deal may have subsided for now, but there is much work to be done to help shape the UK’s future relationship with the EU to protect our industry and ensure the public can continue to holiday and travel with the same rights and freedoms as they have today.”
There’s real concern within the ski industry about the effects of Brexit on its ability to post seasonal staff who are UK nationals to work in EU countries.
Ski tour operators and UK-based chalet companies will be relying on the negotiations to come up with a deal that will allow them to run their businesses successfully next winter.
While the UK was in the EU there was no need for work visas for seasonaires and there was limited bureaucracy.
The EU has already warned that any firm deal is unlikely by the end of December, while the UK has ruled out seeking an extension to the transition period.
It means continued uncertainty for ski firms planning ahead for next season.
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The organisation Seasonal Businesses in Travel (SBiT), which represents many UK ski companies, is working closely with ABTA to ensure the issues facing seasonal British businesses operating in the EU are fully represented in the negotiations.
“We are aware that the job cuts that have happened so far will have disproportionately affected young people and their future opportunities,” said SBiT spokeswoman and Skiworld Sales & Marketing Director, Diane Palumbo.
“We are working hard to protect these jobs and to preserve the choice and range of holidays offered by British companies which are so loved by British skiers.”
There’s also a big question mark over arrangements for reciprocal health care.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) remains valid during the transition period.
It means that if you fall ill or have an accident while skiing, the cost of your treatment in state-run hospitals will be largely* covered if you have an EHIC.
The EHIC is valid in any EU country plus Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein.
The UK government has said it is “seeking agreements with countries on health care arrangements for UK nationals”.
Again, if there’s no agreement, you won’t be able to rely on your EHIC card after 31st December.
*The EHIC does not cover 100% of your state-run hospital costs, and medical facilities in ski resorts are private so you also need to take out your own insurance.