Photo: Mei Yi/Shutterstock

I'm Among the UK Travelers Who Just Found Out Their Passport Won't Work in the EU

United Kingdom Airports + Flying
by Katie Scott Aiton Apr 1, 2024

Last week, all major outlets of the British press ran the story that the EU no longer recognizes British passports over 10 years old. The confusing rule means for a UK citizen to enter Europe, not only will they need at least three months left before their passport’s expiry date on the intended day of return, but the issue date is now very important. Prior to Brexit, British citizens were able to carry over up to nine months from an old passport to a new one and purchase extra pages, extending the life of the document. Unfortunately for many — by many, I mean millions, including myself — they now have a passport issued before Brexit which is defunct for EU travel.

And although there’s safety in numbers, I don’t want to have anything to do with my Royal red passport. And that’s the kicker. I’m still grieving Brexit. I hold a British passport, but I consider myself European, and now my current documentation won’t allow me to cross their borders.

The rule change saw British nationals being turned away at airport gates, ferry terminals, and train stations this weekend over the Easter break. It’s estimated the new rule could affect 32 million people.

I’ve never looked fondly at my passport. It makes me uncomfortable, as does the digital drop-down option of “United Kingdom” that I have to select instead of Scotland on official travel documents. Yet my unease has never stopped me from reaping the benefits of the British passport. It’s afforded me the freedom to roam around the world and obtain visas to live and work in many countries with relative ease. I’ve dined out on this privilege for decades. I have none of the struggles many people from other nations face, and the confusion over passport validity is just a speed bump.

So I’m not going to take this to the battlefield. There’s not a lot of point in complaining. The UK made a catastrophic mistake, and now the EU, like a pissed-off ex-spouse, is not only giving us the middle finger under the table, it’s right up our nose. And rightly so.

Regardless of my vote (or my country’s at large) against Brexit, my politics, or my allegiance to the EU the passport I hold is defunct for European travel. It’s just that simple. That said, if I’m going to kiss a boot, I’d much rather pucker up to the well-heeled EU rather than Westminster.

In the short run, for someone who visits Europe regularly, the current situation is less than ideal. I may not be able to travel for work over the next couple of months, and my upcoming honeymoon in early summer could well be in question. It can take up to three weeks for a standard passport renewal, but whether or not the UK passport offices can handle the tsunami of document renewal applications in the coming weeks is questionable. Let’s face it, their track record of managing summer traffic is sketchy, to say the least.

We must also applaud the timing of the news, which came a day before the Easter holidays, a time which sees a significant rise in family trips to Europe. The BBC reports disappointed holidaymakers were simply turned away at the weekend, with airlines claiming it was the responsibility of the passenger to ensure their documents comply with EU regulations and insurers will not cover the loss of travel due to issues with passport validity.

This news comes off the back of humiliating headlines of British tourists being fined at popular European beach destinations for smoking, drinking, and other bad behavior, Amsterdam’s campaign urging Brits to stay away, and other communities at popular fly-and-flop spots telling the partying British public to “bugger off.” It seems doors are closing across Europe. Or, at the very least, being wrapped in red tape.

Discover Matador