motorhome life after brexit

Motorhoming in Europe After Brexit

Now Brexit is done and dusted and there is an agreement in place, we know that come January 2021, motorhome travel in Europe will be inexorably changed. Find out what taking a motorhome to Europe after Brexit will look like and how you can still travel long term on the continent. 

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An historic deal was agreed between the UK and Eu on Christmas Eve 2020, avoiding a no-deal Brexit. This means that most aspects of travel documentation remain relatively simple. However, touring Europe after Brexit will change because there has been no relaxation regarding freedom of movement, meaning we will have to adapt to being a ‘third country’, outside of the EU and Schengen Area.

What is a 'Third' Country?

The EU defines a third country as ‘a country that is not a member of the European Union as well as a country or territory whose citizens do not enjoy the European Union right to free movement’.

What is the Schengen Area?

The Schengen Area is a zone where 26 European countries, through the Schengen Agreement, abolished their internal borders and allow the free and unrestricted movement of people. The UK did not sign up to the Schengen Agreement in 1985, but through its’ membership of the European Union, UK citizens have enjoyed the right to freedom of movement throughout the EU. 

How Does That Affect Motorhome Travel in Europe?

It means that any UK citizen travelling to Europe, regardless of their means of travel, has to abide by the Schengen legislation. The Schengen Agreement says that “all nationals of third countries (non-EU countries) need to obtain a visa prior of their arrival in Europe”. A Schengen visa is a short-stay visa that allows a person to travel to any member countries of the Schengen Area, for stays of up to 90 days for tourism or business purposes.

Many of us have become used to spending the entire winter in southern Europe, chasing the sun or living in our motorhomes on a favourite site. A motorhome road trip of six months or more was not unusual, with some motorhomers choosing to travel and live in their motorhomes permanently in the EU.  But from 1st January 2021, UK citizens will only be able to stay for 90 days in every 180 days in the Schengen Area. 

An example of this might be that you spend 90 days touring France and Spain and on the 90th day you take a ferry to Morocco. You stay there for 90 days and on the 90th day you return to Spain. In the total 180 day period you have been travelling, you have spent 90 days in and 90 days out of the Schengen – the 90 in 180 day rule is satisfied. 

A further example is that you spend 60 days touring in France and Spain (arriving from the UK on day 1 and assuming no Schengen Area visits in the previous 180 days). On the 60th day, you take a ferry to Morocco. You stay there for 60 days and on the 60th day you return to Spain. So far, you’ve been travelling for a total of 120 days. In the next 60 days you may spend 30 of them in the Schengen Area. Thus, the 90 days in every 180 day rule is satisfied.

The 90 in 180 day rule works on a rolling basis and it can be difficult to work out whether you are within the rules or not, especially if you have visited the Schengen area on several occasions in the preceding 180 days. Use this calculator to check that you are not about to overstay your welcome. 

Which Countries Are in the Schengen Area?

Will I Need a Visa?

Currently, no visa is required for UK citizens to travel to Europe, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, for trips of less than 90 days. In 2022, the EU will introduce the ETIAS (European Travel Information and Authorisation System). This will be an additional entry requirement for visa-exempt travellers and will most likely include British citizens. Whilst the ETIAS is not a visa, it will involve the traveller registering their details online before travelling, mainly for security purposes. 

How Can I Travel Europe Long Term After Brexit?

Head for non-Schengen Countries

This is probably the easiest way to stay on the continent (or beyond) for longer than the 90 days. 

Motorhomers can hop across to Morocco from Spain, a boat journey which only takes an hour or so. A popular winter destination with French motorhomers, Morocco is also a stunningly beautiful and interesting country to visit. The per day cost of living is cheap and the country has motorhome camping in most of the places you will want to see.  

Turkey is also easily accessible, either by boat from Greece or overland via Bulgaria. Whilst you’re in that area, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania do not yet belong to the Schengen Area, and could be an option for some of the 90 days you need to spend outside the zone (each allows British travellers to stay visa free for 90 days in any 180 day period). And let’s not forget Ireland, accessible from both the UK and France.

The European micro-states of Monaco, San Marino, Vatican City and Andorra are not part of the European Union nor the Schengen Agreement. Before you go hot footing it off to see the Pope, Vatican City is clearly out of the equation, as is Monoco as motorhomes and campervans are banned from the tiny principality. 

San Marino and Andorra are potential options, but you would need to make very careful records about when you were there and be able to evidence that, as neither have formal border controls, and be sure that small country is a place where you want to spend 90 days. 

Van life after Brexit could look something like this;

  • July to September – Germany, the Alps and France
  • October to December – Morocco
  • January to March – Spain and Portugal
  • April to June – UK
  • July to September – Scandinavia
  • October to December – Croatia, Bulgaria and Turkey
  • January to March – Italy, Spain and Portugal
  • April to June – Ireland
Your travel plans will probably end up being less flexible and you will need to calculate your 90 day period exactly and make sure you allow enough driving time to get between the Schengen and non-Schengen countries, or store your motorhome in the Schengen and fly out.  But, long-term post Brexit travel will be possible if you’re prepared and willing to take the time to research and plan.

Explore Visa Options

It may be possible to get a working holiday visa post Brexit, although this has yet to be confirmed and will depend on the negotiations currently ongoing with individual countries. Working holiday visas are country specific and all countries have differing criteria and rules, which you can find hereMost working holiday visa’s allow one to two years travel in a specific country (although some EU countries also extend this to the Schengen Area) and are age limited from 18-35. For the younger van lifers amongst us, it could be an option.

Some EU countries also offer a long stay tourist visa that is usually valid for one year.  The criteria can be quite tough – you need to evidence that you can support yourself for the year that you’ll be in the country, have medical insurance and you won’t have any rights to work. Also, you’ll only be able to travel in that one country for the year – it won’t give you rights to travel in the Schengen Area.

Many countries offer university courses in English, at a fraction of the price of the equivalent course in the UK. There is a Schengen student visa, but this only covers you for 90 days of study. For longer courses, each country has its own criteria for awarding a student visa, so you would need to decided where you want to study first. Again, such a visa does not usually cover Schengen wide travel.

Become an EU Resident

Now UK is no longer a member of the EU, most EU countries will require you to invest at least €500,000 (Greece and Latvia let you in for a mere €250,000) for your residency permit.

Each countries’ criteria of what constitutes residency is different and each country has also made different commitments as to how they will approach residency applications post Brexit and what their requirements will be.

Residency in an EU country does not infer freedom of movement across the Schengen Area outside your country of residence until you become a citizen of that country, which may take many years. But, if you were to travel over a land border occasionally, who would know?

Get an EU Passport

If you have parents or grandparents born in an EU country, then you may be entitled to dual nationality (and therefore a passport) of that country. Similarly, if you were born on the island of Ireland, then you’re automatically an Irish citizen and therefore can carry an Irish passport. Holding the passport of an EU member state places you in the same position you were in prior to Brexit, and will give you freedom of movement across the Schengen Area.

Marry an EU Citizen

If you are a UK citizen married to a passport holder of an EU country, then under Article 6(2) of Directive 2004/38/EC, you have the right to a family life and may travel together under the same rules as the passport holder. Effectively, you will be able to travel throughout the Schengen Area as you did prior to Brexit.  

We asked the EU Commission to confirm our rights under this directive and received this response;

“According to Article 6(2) of Directive 2004/38/EC non-EU national family members of mobile EU citizens have the right of residence in another Member State for a period of up to three months if they are in possession of a passport and are accompanying or joining an EU citizen, without any limitation to 90 days in a 180-day period. Therefore the Directorate-General for Justice and Consumers considers that Schengen Member States may not refuse entry to its territory to the non-EU national family member accompanying an EU citizen because he has already been in the Schengen area for 3 months and has not left the Schengen area for another 3 months.”

What Happens If I Overstay?

It is well known amongst travellers from existing non-members states such that not all countries are scrupulous about checking your passport as you leave. A general rule of thumb seems to be that the further south in Europe you are, the more lax the border control is in terms of looking at your passport, but that doesn’t help much if you need to drive back to the UK. 

You may get lucky, be able to overstay and not get caught, but this is a very risky strategy when a fine, deportation and being banned from re-entering are the penalties.

What About Documentation?

From 1st January 2021, the UK Government has confirmed the following;

  • You must have at least six months remaining on your passport to travel in Europe. Your passport is valid for travel until expiry in the Republic of Ireland. You can no longer use the EU/EEA passport lanes.
  • You may be asked at the border to provide evidence of a return or onward ticket and for you to prove you have enough money for your stay. If you can’t provide such evidence, they are within their rights to refuse you entry to the country.
  • You will require a green card to prove you have motorhome insurance cover when travelling in Europe and a GB sticker on the rear of your vehicle.
  • Your UK licence allows you to drive in all EU countries. If you only have a paper driving licence or a licence issued in Gibraltar, Guernsey, Jersey or the Isle of Man then you will need an International Driving Permit.
  • You will require an Animal Health Certificate to take your pet to the EU or Northern Ireland. Your pet must be microchipped and have received a rabies vaccination before the AHC can be issued by a vet. 
  • Your current EHIC card will be valid until it expires. You can then apply for a new card called the UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC), which, unlike the EHIC, won’t cover you in Switzerland, Norway, Iceland or Liechtenstein. Like EHIC, the new card will cover chronic or existing illnesses and routine maternity care as well as emergencies but any specialised treatment, such as dialysis or cancer treatment, “must be subject to a prior agreement between the insured person and the unit providing the treatment” to ensure the treatment is available. The government’s advice, however, still says you should buy travel insurance with healthcare cover before you travel in Europe. 

Conclusions

Long-term motorhome touring in Europe after Brexit will still be possible, but you may have to plan a little bit more carefully and jump through a few more hoops to be able to stay and travel across Europe for longer than three months.

We think that the coming changes will open up some of the countries bordering the EU a little but more, encouraging better motorhome facilities for travellers who are keen to stay out of the UK for longer.  But, inevitably, insurance and breakdown costs will increase, possibly making the idea of cheap over-winter motorhome road trips a thing of the past.

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Find out what the future holds for long term motorhome and campervan touring in Europe after Brexit #brexit #motorhomeeurope #motorhomelife #motorhometouring #europetravel #schengenarea

How can you tour Europe long term after Brexit? See all the options for spending a year of more in Europe post Brexit #brexit #motorhomeeurope #motorhomelife #motorhometouring #europetravel #schengenarea

13 thoughts on “Motorhoming in Europe After Brexit”

  1. Hi Liz Yes, you can do exactly as you have described under the Schengen rules. A couple of points to note – don’t risk booking your flight home on the 90th day, just in case it’s delayed and you accidentally overstay. The other point, which I’m currently waiting on some feedback from the EU on, is whether your motorhome can remain in the EU long-term without the need for it to be imported or liable to import duty. I will update the post about travelling in a motorhome in Europe after Brexit as soon as I have the info, and share it in our Facebook group as well.

  2. Thank you for the information. I have a question and please excuse me if someone else has already asked this. As an example, if we are in Spain for the given 90 days, can we then leave our motorhome in storage, return to England for 90 days then return to Spain, collect the motorhome and off we go again on our travels for the next 90 days? Any advice will be much appreciated. Thanks
    Liz

  3. Hi Tom the only way you can re-register a motorhome would be to import it into an EU country, but you would have to be resident in that country. Prior to Brexit, you could have temporarily imported your vehicle, but that is only open to other EU members, so off the table now. If the van remains registered in the UK, it needs a UK MOT. You may be able to insure it with an EU insurer such as Abbeygate in Spain, who specialise in insuring UK registered vehicle, but they would require the vehicle to be legal in its home country and may need you to have an address in Spain, although they do not (at the moment) require you to be a resident. There really is no way round the MOT – you just have to build going back to the UK every year into your plans.

  4. Hi All.

    If wanting to Full time in Europe. Is there any way possible to re register a Uk Motorhome to avoid having to return to UK for the Mot. Or perhaps can The Van get a Eu mot and Eu insurer. Any ideas?

    Love this site

  5. Great article guys, very informative as always.
    We are planning on travelling through Europe this year but looks like we will have to include Turkey and Morocco now, or maybe Serbia? We loved Croatia and Montenegro and like the sound of Serbia. Maybe even Belarus!?
    Obviously COVID restrictions will have a big part to play.

  6. Hi Clive I’m not sure about vat – if you’re holidaying I guess it doesn’t make any difference. Because of the Schengen rules, most people won’t be permanently travelling in the EU now anyway, unless they have residency of another passport for an EU country.

  7. I just wondered how Brexit will effect Motorhome in the EU after Brexit and returning to the UK.Boat owners in the EU after Brexit will need to pay VAT on their return to UK

  8. Hi Stewart Thanks for the feedback, it’s appreciated! Although Ireland is not part of the Schengen, because it is part of the EU this over-rides the Schengen rule, just like it did when the UK was part of the EU and not a Schengen member. Hope that makes sense? You can email us at hello@thegapdecaders.com if you want to chat through further.

  9. Hi Izzy I love your website with its wealth of information.
    I’m particularly interested (like many others) in the situation post Brexit.
    We are both UK citizens living in England.
    My wife and I spend early Jan to early April in the Canary Islands.
    We use our motorhome mid May until mid August every year travelling through France and Spain.
    My wife holds an Irish passport by right of her father being Irish so I was very interested to read your section on “Marry an EU Citizen”.
    It appears therefore that I am covered by Article 6(2) of Directive 2004/38/EC.
    I am confused however about the 90 day rule. You quote the EU Commission as saying ” — without any limitation to 90 days in a 180-day period”.
    Is the Schengen rule not applicable anyway ?
    Sorry to go on but it’s complicated.
    Kind regards.
    Stewart Wilson.

  10. Hi Lisa the UK and EU leaders have been clear that until the end of the transition period, everything stays as it was, and that includes the Schengen rules. Until the negotiations are over, its not clear what will happen come 01/01/21 i.e. do your Schengen days start then, even if you’ve perhaps spent October, November and December in the Schengen area? We’ll keep the post updated and let you know as soon as we do what is likely to happen.

  11. Hi Steve good question – if you are an EU citizen (not a resident but a full citizen in possession of a passport from an EU member state) then the Schengen rules mean that you have freedom of movement across the whole Schengen area. I guess we’ll have to wait and see what the UK insurers say…I spoke to Safeguard about a month ago and they said, at that time, that they would continue to cover us for 365 days in Europe and provide a green card if the government say this is necessary. I know many Spanish companies will only cover you for 90 days annually outside of Spain, but not sure about other insurers.

  12. Hiya. Good information. Thanks
    You don’t mention anything about the rules, if I am ALREADY an EU Citizen?
    There are no limits to our travel and length of stay within the Schengen area, other than those that may be imposed by our insurance companies. Is this true?
    Thanks
    Steve

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