As the UK prepares for its looming breakup with the European Union, it’s looking at ways to make itself more accessible to travelers and improve relations with its other allies. Whereas before only UK and EU citizens got preferential treatment at British airports, now that treatment is expanding to citizens of five other countries, as well. Travelers from the US, Canada, Australia, Japan, and New Zealand will now be able to use the quicker electronic passport gates at UK airports, which were previously only open to EU citizens. Announced Monday by Philip Hammond, Chancellor of the Exchequer, the procedure is part of the new pre-Brexit budget.
While these new measures are slated to take effect this summer, Heathrow CEO John Holland-Kaye wants the government to implement the plan sooner. Britain is set to officially leave the European Union in March, and beginning this new policy before that happens, he says, would “demonstrate that Britain is open for business.”
Currently, the electronic passport gates are only open to citizens of the EU and Switzerland. Outside of these special e-gates, UK border officials have struggled to process passengers efficiently, owing to the sheer volume of non-EU travelers. In addition to improving relations with non-EU countries, the new measure is intended to speed up lines across all UK airports, especially when it comes to overseas passengers.