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, the social security coordination protocol of the Trade and Cooperation agreement between the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community, for one part, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, for the other, envisaged the health cover of British tourists during their stay in Spain. British citizens should contact the British institution to find out which document supporting their rights they are going to be issued with.
For more information please see Spain's official tourism website.
- Royal Decree-Law 38/2020, of December 29 [PDF] adopting measures to adapt to the third country status of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland following the end of the transitional period provided for in the Agreement on the withdrawal of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland from the European Union and the European Atomic Energy Community of January 31, 2020.
- EU and UK ratified agreements. The December 24 agreement between the Commission and the UK Government is not published because it requires ratification by the European and British Parliaments.