Friday

21st Jul 2017

UK visitors to pay into EU budget after Brexit

  • Brits made 35 million holiday trips to the EU last year (Photo: CGP Grey)

British nationals may end up paying into the EU general budget after the UK leaves the European Union.

An EU proposal to tighten border security controls for all visa-free travellers sometime in 2020 will be generating cash by demanding fees from holidaymakers. The fees will pay for annual running costs.

But an European Commission official on Monday (26 June) said any surplus revenue would also then go to the EU budget and reduce member state contributions.

Proposed last November, the Commission's European Travel Information and Authorisation System (Etias), will screen all visa-free travellers before they enter the passport-free Schengen zone of 26 European states.

"Any accumulated surplus generated by the Etias revenues would in any case revert back to the EU general budget and hence reduce member state contributions," the Commission official told MEPs.

A five-year application under the scheme is €5. The fee is small but the UK's total sum in the pot is not insignificant.

Brits made 35 million holiday trips to the EU last year alone with around a third going to Spain, followed by France and Greece. Another 5.5 million were business trips.

A spokesperson from the UK-based Association of British Travel Agents (Abta) told EUobserver that the UK holiday figures to the EU have increased substantially in the past few years.

He noted that 2016 was "an all time record".

Abta wants the British government to negotiate an exemption for UK nationals in Etias, noting that "it is in everyone's interest to keep these flows going."

The UK government, meanwhile, says it is determined to get the best possible deal for the country.

A UK government spokesperson said Etias was just "one of many areas that may need to be addressed as we leave the EU and agree a new partnership."

It is also likely to stir up resentment among people who campaigned to leave the EU, given that British nationals may still be footing, albeit indirectly, the EU budget after Brexit.

Commission estimates suggest Etias will cost over €200 million to launch and around €85 million to maintain annually. Discussions between the EU institutions have yet to start but the plan is to reach an agreement before the end this year.

German Green MEP Jan Philipp Albrecht said the EU would be better off making it easier for people to travel than imposing a new system that not only creates more red tape but also blanket collects personal data.

"Making it easier for people from countries, which are also democracies, to travel to the European Union and back is a positive thing and we need not to make that more difficult but easier," he said on Monday.

EU nationals, for their part, took 10 million holiday trips and some 7 million business trips to the UK in 2016.

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Efforts by the European Parliament to scupper visa-free travel for Americans, in light of US restrictions on some EU states, were dashed on Tuesday by the European Commission.

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