Virginia, US

With new events changing the conversation each day, it is difficult to predict how, if and when the UK will leave the European Union and what impact this could have on British nationals who conduct business visits to EU countries.  Immediate changes to business travel for British citizens into the European Union will occur as soon as the free movement of EU citizens stops applying to them which depends on whether the UK leaves the EU with or without deal on Brexit day which is still to be determined.

With the UK within the EU, British citizens have been permitted to travel freely to any EU/EEA country without an entry visa and to conduct work or business activities without a work permit due to the free movement of people within the European Union.

Following the UK’s exit from the EU, it is likely that British nationals will still be able to continue to travel into the EU without a visa.  As part of the ‘no deal’ contingency planning, the EU has agreed visa free travel to the EU for British nationals if the UK agrees to reciprocal visa free travel for EU citizens.  The UK, in turn, has indicated that EU citizens will not require a visa to the UK for short term visits. If either the UK or the EU change their position on this point or legislation is not adopted in time, British nationals may require a visa to travel to the EU (and possibly vice versa).  This is not likely, but it is important that companies remain informed and have some flexibility with planning for business travel.

From the exit date, the UK will become a third country for the purposes of EU legislation and, in a no deal scenario, British nationals will be subject to the work permit exemption regulations of each individual EU/EEA country.  These rules vary between countries and an assessment should be conducted to ensure that any business travel is compliant with the allowable activities in each jurisdiction.  Some activities that British nationals were previously allowed to undertake prior to the UK departure from the EU may no longer fall within work permit exemption and therefore may require a work permit.

In addition, (both in a ‘deal’ and in a ‘no deal’ scenario) British nationals will be limited to a maximum stay of 90 days in any 180-day period in the Schengen Area – meaning that business trips to all EU/EEA countries which are part of the Schengen Area should be considered as a whole to ensure compliance.  Furthermore, work permit exemptions will often be for a specific time that could be shorter than the 90 days that can be spent in the Schengen Area.

What can employers do now?

Companies should consider the implications of any changes that Brexit could bring for their business travellers. This includes understanding who your frequent travellers are, what nationalities they hold as well as what activities they are generally undertaking on business travel. This will allow for a better understanding as to whether this travel could continue uninterrupted and in which conditions— in a deal or in a no-deal Brexit.  British national employees should be aware that there could be possible changes that may require them to have an assessment of their activities prior to business travel to Europe.  Companies can prepare by developing an understanding of what activities are permissible in the EU/EEA countries where British nationals are commonly travelling to. It is also recommended to check the validity of the British passports, as these must be biometric, issued within the last 10 years and have a validity of at least 3 months beyond their intended stay in the Schengen Area.

If you have further queries, please contact me at [email protected]