End of the transitional period of Brexit
On 31 December 2020 the transitional period expired that the United Kingdom and the EU had set for negotiating the future of their relationship, once the United Kingdom ceased to be a member country on 1 February 2020. The completion of this transition period, set in the withdrawal agreement, meant that the United Kingdom was no longer participating in the single market and the customs union of the European Union, or in its policies and programmes, and no longer benefited from the international agreements of the Union.
After intensive negotiations, on 24 December, Christmas Eve, the President of the European Commission, Ursula Von der Leyen, and the head of the Task Force, Michel Barnier, announced the completion of a trade and cooperation agreement between the European Union and the United Kingdom. They described it as a balanced agreement that will avoid major disruptions from 1 January and protect European interests.
To protect the interests of citizens and economic operators, the government of Spain has passed a Royal Decree-Law with contingency measures designed to complete and implement the provisions of the trade and cooperation agreement at the national level.
How will tourism be affected by the end of the transitional period? This section is intended to respond to the main questions that may arise in the area.
Are visas needed for travelling to Spain from the United Kingdom?
No. From 1 January 2021, United Kingdom nationals shall be exempt from the obligation to hold a visa when crossing the external borders of the European Union for short stays (up to 90 days in any period of 180 days). This visa waiver does not include the right to work in the union, and is subject to the reciprocity mechanism applicable to third countries.
Will there be border controls?
From 1 January 2021, United Kingdom nationals travelling to the European Union and Schengen area will be treated as third-country nationals and, therefore, will be subject to checks at the border of the Schengen area. This means that their stays in the territory of EU member states cannot exceed 90 days in any 180-day period, and UK nationals will have to comply with the conditions of entry for third-country nationals.
What about travelling with pets?
If you travel with pets you can still do so, but you will need an animal health certificate issued by the British healthcare authorities, and you must enter the EU via one of the airports or ports authorised for this purpose. For more information, see the website of the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food.
Will Spain recognise my British driving licence?
From 1 January 2021, driving licences issued by the United Kingdom will no longer enjoy mutual recognition under the law of the Union. Driving licences, valid and in force, issued by the British authorities entitle their holders to drive in Spain during a period of six months from 1 January 2021. After this six-month period, the regime for permits issued in third countries will apply, in the terms of the current regulations governing traffic, unless the Kingdom of Spain and the United Kingdom reach a bilateral agreement that recognises each other's driving licences.
Will I have access to healthcare in Spain?
Yes, as long as the United Kingdom acts reciprocally with Spanish citizens. Until 30 June 2021, persons with the right to free NHS health care in the United Kingdom or Gibraltar can receive health care from the Spanish National Health System, in the same terms and subject to the same conditions as prior to 1 January 2021.
Individual health cards issued to citizens with the right to healthcare in the United Kingdom or Gibraltar and residing in Spain will remain valid and fully effective until 30 June 2021 for healthcare services in the Spanish National Health System. Those who do not have this card must obtain the document accrediting their right to healthcare to be paid by the corresponding British entities and issued by them for that purpose, and present it to Spain's National Social Security Institute.
In cases of temporary stays and scheduled treatments, they must obtain and present the document accrediting their healthcare will be covered by the corresponding British entities, which will be accepted at all the health centres in Spain's National Health System.
Prescriptions written in the United Kingdom can be filled in Spain, as provided in Royal Decree 1718/2010 of 17 December on prescriptions and dispensing orders, provided that the United Kingdom is acting reciprocally.
For more information please see Spain's official tourism website.
- Real Decreto-ley 38/2020, de 29 de diciembre, por el que se adoptan medidas de adaptación a la situación de Estado tercero del Reino Unido de Gran Bretaña e Irlanda del Norte tras la finalización del periodo transitorio previsto en el Acuerdo sobre la retirada del Reino Unido de Gran Bretaña e Irlanda del Norte de la Unión Europea y de la Comunidad Europea de la Energía Atómica, de 31 de enero de 2020.
- Acuerdos ratificados UE y UK El acuerdo del 24 de diciembre entre Comisión y Gobierno UK no está publicado porque precisa ratificación por Parlamento Europeo y britanico.