During the 2015 election period, the Conservative Party pledged in their manifesto to hold a referendum before 2020 on the issue of the UK leaving the European Union (EU). Following consultations, the Government decided to set a date of Thursday 23 June 2016 for the vote.
After initial engagement in politics during teenage years, the 21-35 year old demographic has a huge drop in political engagement, however, this is one of the most important decisions of our generation, and one that will touch on almost every aspect of our lives whether directly or indirectly.
I tend to keep my blog as politically neutral as possible, if I wanted a blog on politics, I'd make one (and probably have a readership in single digits). However, the referendum has important ramifications for those of us who are interested in travelling and seeing the world. 76% of all foreign holidays are to EU Member States. Unlike most publications I've read on this topic, I'll keep this relatively high level, brief and focused on the affect of the vote on travelling.
We hate being called European. I'm not actually sure why, but British people tend to think they are loosely associated but most importantly, removed from 'the continent'. It's perhaps a result of geography, The UK is an island, and would like to stay that way.
There are many reasons as to why the EU, an institution that has bought over 50 years of peace to a continent that was perpetually at war, is being seen as a negative influence. Top of that list seems to be immigration. As someone who's mother is an immigrant from Panjab, my views on the matter are probably quite obvious. There are however, other more contentious issues that may not be so black and white; loss of sovereignty, increased regulation, reduced competitiveness and cost.
One thing to bare in mind is that nobody, not even politicians know what a post-Brexit world would look like. There are no certainties that the UK would be able to negotiate the same agreements with EU countries, and also whether we could negotiate agreements with third countries that have been done on our behalf by the EU. In some instances, I am sure that a strong independent Britain would be able to negotiate favourable agreements, however, there would be a high level of uncertainty. I am also sure in other areas, Britain will not be able to gain the same favourable agreements that come with being part of a large trading bloc. Politicians are also human beings too, imagine leaving your spouse then trying to negotiate an agreement that would be favourable to you. I'm pretty sure there will be some bitter European countries waiting on the negotiating table for us.
In a detailed political blog, I'd be sure to highlight the net positive impact from immigrants from the EU, I'd probably talk about the short term impact of less money spent on membership fees against the longer term loss of guaranteed free-trade with our biggest trading partner and I'd definitely talk about the numerous studies done on perception v reality, you'd be surprised to know how many immigrants we think there are in our country against how many there really are. I wont spoil the surprise, but here's a clue, its not actually that big of a number.
No, in this entry I will frame the argument strictly within the lens of a person hoping to travel the world, see new things and have new experiences. If you are interested in any of the other points, I'll post some links at the bottom of the page.
Trips will become more expensive
This is the most important, and also the most clear cut factor in the referendum. I'm not a millionaire, in fact my mom has worked under the poverty line all her life. When I was young I never went on any holidays so I worked hard to get a job that gives me the opportunity to pay her back and earn enough money to travel the world. When I do go abroad, cost forms an important part of my decision making. I have spent more time in hostels, cheap local airlines and cramped buses with no air conditioning than I have in luxury hotels or big name flights.
There are some issues where there are arguments for both sides, this however, seems more clear cut. Whichever way you look at it, costs will increase, at least in the short term, to both Europe and further afield. The drivers of this increase in cost will be two-fold: exchange rates and more expensive flights.
GBP will fall in the short term
UBS and HSBC have both published research showing that in the event of a Brexit, the Pound would reach parity with the Euro. Simply put this means that at least in the short-run, 1 GBP would buy you 1 EUR. This is in contrast to the UK voting to stay in the EU where, according to analysts at UBS, the Pound would climb against the Euro and 1 GBP will allow you to purchase 1.4 Euro's.
All of this means that you will get less Euro's if you decide to do some travelling around Europe. The difference might seem small over 1 Pound, but if you take into account that even a weekend in Europe can cost over £250, this all adds up.
Personally, I don't think the difference will be so large. There is preliminary research being done into the effect of Brexit on the European economy, and there is no doubt, Europe will also be worse off and this might be reflected in a weaker Euro. However, even taking this into account, the weight seems to be on the Pound, with the GBP already falling significantly in the run up to the referendum based on uncertainty.
In addition to this, a weaker Pound would also mean you get less of other currencies. American's always comment on the amount of foreign currency we can buy for 1 Pound compared to how much they can buy for 1 Dollar. I met a guy in Phnom Penh, Cambodia who said he lived in the UK for a number of years and was always surprised at how rich he felt whenever he used to convert Pounds to other currencies, as he would always get less for Dollars.
What this means is that even if you go to the States, Thailand, India, Mexico Australia or South Africa, the amount of foreign currency you can buy with 1 GBP will be smaller.
Goodbye Skyscanner deals
The EU aims to harmonise legislation across Member States. Some rules have been popular, others have not been so well received. Legislation around single air service agreements has provided the platform for lost cost, no-frills airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet to enter the market. The entry of these low cost airlines has improved competition and ultimately led to better outcomes for end consumers, you and me.
It's difficult to set out what a post-Brexit world would look like in terms of airfares. By leaving the EU, there would be a period of several years where existing agreements are replaced with new agreements and it is difficult to say whether EU Member States would include the UK in a single aviation area. Should the UK fail to negotiate a new agreement on such terms, it is inevitable that costs for flying into and from the EU would increase.
The cost of calling home from Europe, and vice versa, has fallen tremendously in the past few years and roaming charges will be dropped altogether in 2017. Research by Deloitte shows that, depending on the ability of the Government to re-negotiate a replacement agreement, on exit, the current legislation would come to an end (following a two year transition period) and mobile phone companies will have the ability to increase call charges.
The cost of price increases looks all the more likely as mobile phone operators really fought against the abolition of roaming charges, and they have reluctantly accepted as the reduction and abolition of roaming charges has been signed into law. Given how hard they fought against the reduction of charges, its almost inevitable that as soon as they get the opportunity, operators will increase charges.
Passenger rights have been significantly improved under the EU, and right now, being a traveller from the UK or EU gives you some of the most comprehensive rights in the world.
Current rules dictate that consumers will be protected from things such as airline failures and failure to deliver services. I have read nightmare stories about smaller airlines failing and travellers being stuck abroad or stuck at home but with no recourse to get their money back. Current EU rules aim to give confidence to travellers in this respect but on exit, certain elements of this Directive may have to be re-negotiated. Although not a strong argument, it does once again bring in an element of uncertainty.
Something that I have found useful is rules around delays and cancellations to airlines flying to and from EU airports. If your airline is delayed/cancelled, depending on how long you are delayed for and how far you are flying you could get anything up to roughly £400-£500 in compensation. When a flight from Amsterdam was cancelled I not only received the usual food and hotel that I would have got everywhere in the world, I also received over £200 in compensation from the airline, despite the fact that I would be flying with them the next day and the fact the actual ticket price was significantly less. On another occasion, a flight to Bangkok was delayed by a day on the Birmingham-Dubai leg of the journey. Again I was compensated over and above the cost of the ticket and I was put on a replacement flight.
Issues like these are incredibly important for passengers flying out of the UK. Right now there are certain protections that are guaranteed, following a Brexit these protections at best would be uncertain and at worst we would no longer be party to them.
It's something most of us probably put to the back of our minds, but health insurance cover is one of the most important but least talked about pieces of legislation. For twenty somethings, this should be particularly important as extreme sports and stag do's increase the likelihood of hospital treatment.
Under current EU rules, UK travellers can access hospitals on the same terms as local users in Europe. Should Brexit happen, this would mean that UK travellers would automatically lose this right until new agreements are negotiated (and these could take several years). What this means in the short-term is that travel insurance premiums will increase during trips to Europe. It would also mean you would have to be particularly careful as hospital bills abroad could run into the thousands of pounds.
Conversely, there is an argument that the NHS is stretched, and as these rules would apply to European travellers, it might actually put less strain on the health service. However, far more Britons travel to France or Spain than vice versa so the biggest impact would be felt by British travellers.
Freedom of movement
This is by far the most divisive point. EU law guarantees freedom of movement within Member States. Leave campaigners argue this means a significant amount of Europeans moving to the UK.
On a very high level, we must also remember this works both ways. There are approximately 4 million people from the continent who live and work in the UK. There are also about 1.2 million Britons who live and work in Europe. According to work done at UCL and reported by the Financial Times, EU immigrants pay £20 billion more in taxes than they receive in benefits. However, I also appreciate there is a social aspect to this argument that is harder to measure. Nevertheless, whilst the immigration aspect of the freedom of movement rule has many variables, the travelling aspect of it is a little more straight forward (although by no means crystal clear).
Trips to Europe are relatively easy and pain free. You pay your money, arrive at the airport an hour before your flight is going to leave, you get 'randomly' searched and off you go. In a Brexit scenario things aren't so clear.
In a Norway-like scenario, where we leave the EU but join the EEA, there would be no visa restrictions as freedom of movement would not be affected, therefore there would be little change. Personally this scenario makes no sense to me as not only would the UK lose its voice in Europe, but it will still have to play by certain European rules, a lose-lose situation.
Leave campaigners have argued that on exiting the EU, Britain would ask for new visa requirements to be put in place for travellers from certain European countries. Should this occur, reciprocation would almost certainly happen. This would mean that in order to travel to France, Germany, Italy, Greece or Spain, UK travellers would have to first buy a visa, therefore increasing the cost of travel.
I would be very surprised if this was to occur. We don't have freedom of movement agreements with countries such as Brazil, Peru or Thailand and we do not have to buy a visa when travelling to these countries, so there is a good chance we wouldn't have to get visas for European travel. However, as with other points, it does add another element of uncertainty.
About the vote
Although the vote is on Thursday 23 June 2016, you will need to be first registered to vote. The deadline for registrations is Tuesday 7 June and you can register quickly at gov.uk/register-to-vote..
On the day itself, the vote will be similar to local or general elections where you can either vote in advance by post (at least 11 days before referendum) or you can go to a polling station and vote in person. If you are away travelling on this date, you can vote by proxy (by sending someone else) but you must apply and give a reason at least 6 days in advance.
Whether you are for or against leaving the European Union, its important to have your say and cast your vote on what is likely to be the most important political decision of our generation.
British Sikh in my twenties, born in the Midlands, based in London, travelling the world seeing new cultures.