You’ve heard the acronym bandied about in the last few days – Brexit or a British exit from the European Union. Another acronym that’s surfaced in the aftermath of the referendum held in Britain on Thursday the 23rd of June is Bregret – British voters regretting their vote for Brexit. The British vote for Brexit came as a shock to many as the Establishment applecart was overturned. The powers that be are still trying to retrieve the apples and there is an interim period of uncertainty. So, what does Brexit mean for visitors to Britain in the short (to medium) term?
The referendum calling for Brexit is non-binding, i.e., it is merely advisory. Parliament needs to take action to make it legal. Even though most of Parliament wants to stay in Europe, they would risk being undemocratic if they just ignored the Brexit vote.
Who’s Going to Deal with the D-I-V-O-R-C-E?
David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister, who wanted Britain to stay in Europe, has just resigned having decided that some one else can deal with the mess. His successor will be picked in October. The opposition party is likewise in disarray with calls for a change of leadership. The upshot is that British politics has been turned upside-down.
For Britain to trigger leaving the European Union, they need to do so under Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. It’s sort of like serving divorce papers. Then Britain and Europe have 2 years to sort out an agreement on how the split will work. I can’t help but think Europe will be Divorce Barbie and Britain will be Divorce Ken.
It’s Not You, It’s … OK It’s You
Cameron has said that the new Prime Minister will trigger Article 50. So papers aren’t going to get served until at least October and then the 2 year clock starts running. Some of the EU have grumbled that if the UK wants to leave, then they should just pack their bags and go.
“Britons decided yesterday that they want to leave the European Union, so it doesn’t make any sense to wait until October to try to negotiate the terms of their departure… It’s not an amicable divorce, but it was not exactly tight affair anyway.”
-Jeane Claude Juncker, EU Commission President
Doesn’t that sound like what an upset ex would say? It was never serious, OK? I am NOT upset.
Let’s Just Be Friends
In any event, whenever Article 50 gets started, there’s still another 2 years of waiting in limbo while the details get sorted. After all, Britain is geographically in Europe and the EU is an important trading partner. There is 40 years of history and relationships to untangle. It’s way more complicated than sorting out who gets to keep Great Aunty Hilda’s Grandfather clock.
Won’t Someone Think of the Children?
Scotland and Northern Ireland voted to stay in Europe. Scotland has already had its referendum to leave the United Kingdom and chose to stay. Post-Brexit, they are saying they want to leave the UK and join Europe. Northern Ireland likewise would join up with the Republic of Ireland so that it could stay in the European Union.
It’s like children in a divorce refusing to stay with the custodial parent.
Regrets I’ve Had A Few
The British people are waking up to the consequences of the Brexit vote. Some applaud it, others don’t. Some of it has gotten ugly with xenophobia running rampant but that shouldn’t affect visitors though. You should remember though Britain has generally had a pretty peaceful democratic process. People don’t go around beheading their aristocrats or staging a military coup when they don’t like their government.
So, what does it matter for international visitors to Britain?
Britain is on sale
Great Exchange Rates
The British pound is at the lowest exchange rate in decades. With all the uncertainty in the market, rates are going to be good for the short to medium term. An expensive country suddenly just got a lot cheaper.
Experts predict that the UK will see less European visitors. In 2015, if you looked at it by nationality, European visitors made up 7 out 10 visitors to Britain. The tourist sites will be less busy. Plus, there will be less people from nations with a less rigorous approach towards standing in line. That alone will mean less stress at major tourist attractions.
A Jumping Off Point For Europe
Britain was never part of the Schengen agreement that governed European visa rules. For Americans, this means you can visit Britain for 6 months out of every year. You still need your passport to visit Europe as always. If you are from this list of countries, you will still need a Schengen visa. Americans don’t need a Schengen visa and you can stay in one of the Schengen visa countries for 90 days out of every 6 months.
There will be lots of changes once the Brexit agreement is hammered out. For example, those low-cost airfares throughout Europe from London may rise because all the low-service airlines will need to renegotiate their air service contracts. Britain may become a less attract hub for visitors to Europe but that hasn’t happened yet.
Get thee onto an EasyJet or Ryanair flight pronto!
Europe is Cheaper
So the Euro is also sliding down in value. Thanks to Britain being the first to make a break for the border, other countries are wondering if they too should bolt. For example, polls show 61% of French voters dislike Europe. Along with Germany, France is a corner-stone of the European Union. Just like the far-right politicians in France, right-wingers in The Netherlands applaud Brexit. With Europe facing internal and external pressure (those Syrian refugees haven’t gone away), the Euro will be weak for some time.
In my opinion, there’s really no point in speculating what deals will be struck between Europe and Britain until it happens. We have no idea of the impact of the referendum vote for Brexit in the long term. In the short to medium term, Brexit means visitors to Britain can enjoy a cheaper holiday with less crowds.
So, come visit Britain while the going is good. Britain will be grateful for your tourist money (considering it has jacked up its own economy for no good reason).