Visa-free travel to the UK for EU visitors has been proposed amid ongoing Brexit talks. However, the Government has maintained its stance on implementing mandatory procedures, to ensure prior permission is obtained before travelling to the UK to work, study or settle.
Critics of the new proposal are concerned that this is a backward step in ensuring tighter border controls. They fear that by allowing visa-free visitors, there are more opportunities for individuals to stay beyond their visitor permission; while others see this as an inevitable and practical way forward. This approach is already in place for 56 non-EEA countries who do not require a prior permission to enter the US as a visitor. The Government anticipates a reciprocal agreement, which will in turn benefit UK nationals travelling to the EU following Brexit. However, it is understood that the EU is currently developing a travel authorisation scheme for visitors to Europe, similar to the current ESTA visa-waiver system in the US. Against this backdrop, it is easy to understand why there may be some opposition to the UK’s proposal. After all, it is unclear as to whether the proposed travel authorisation scheme will be rolled out for UK nationals travelling across Europe.
At present EU nationals are permitted to travel to the UK visa-free by virtue of their European nationality. Presentation of their original European passport or identity card grants them undocumented entry, where they are then permitted to undertake employment, study, seek work or be wholly self-sufficient.