Who Pays the Toll for Brexit

ProACT Sam  observes shallow PR and politics in action for Brexit , but it was ever thus, and asks what is the different between a fee, a toll and a tax for Expats Travelling Around the World.

The latest EU PR release - confirming the introduction of a travel ‘visa’ for UK Citizens after Brexit - is another attempt as shallow as the Somerset Marshes to spread fear and uncertainty around the way the world will change in 2019.

We have all known winter is coming for a while, and it may be long, dark, filled with white walkers, giants, dragons come to destroy the world we know, and as a result of global warming plunge the economic world into a 100 year winter of darkness.

But come next spring and Brexit a New Year begins. Expat family and business Living and Working Abroad  need clear guidance and direction for how EU Brexit will affect them.

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Europe British Agreement Adds 12 Days to a Year

Until 1752 Britain and its empire including the USA celebrated the New Year in Spring on March 25th. Indeed this is why the UK tax year starts on 6th April each year.

At that time the UK decided to join the European Calendar introduced over 150 years earlier - the more accurate Gregorian Calendar. Meanwhile the British has lost around 10 minutes a year against the Europeans. So, the process of adopting the Gregorian Calendar meant catching up by 12 days. 

The British tax man, to be fair in the matter of tax as ever, choose to delay the start of the first tax year under the new calendar so as not to loose any revenue - pushing the start of the UK tax year from 25th March to 5th April where it has remained ever since.

As ever with Europe and Britain there was good news and bad news: Europe gave Britain 12 days, but we paid the taxes for that.

International Travel

There are international travel treaties and air travel treaties that operate around the world.  That Brexit may lead to a shut down of travel from the UK to the EU is a nonsense in every sense. Short term travel under 90 days for holiday and business is covered within existing and ongoing treaties.

For perspective we should remember that Passports for travel were only introduced after the first world war in Europe 100 years ago - 1921 in the UK. After another unseemly struggle for power and influence in Europe that lasted for many years before the British and Americans sorted it out.

Some countries require visas for travel by citizens, different countries have different rules and the need for Visas or not is the subject of bilateral treaties between country’s.

Britain has 186 VISA free travel arrangements with countries around the world, ranking a British Passport in 5th place for world Travel Freedom. This includes all countries in the EU. Brexit, leaving the EU doesn’t change this.

ETIAS - ESTA by Another Name

The EU plan to introduce after 2021  an electronic travel authorisation and information scheme.  It is not a new plan.  It is not a relevant news today. It doesn’t affect any travel for 2/3 years or more.

The politics of fear, the PR of business self interest would seize on the introduction of the European ETIAS to highlight the cost of Brexit for the benefit of vested political and big business interests. 

The UK is not in or part of the European free travel Schengen  zone and agreement and so UK citizens may well have had to apply for a European ETIAS anyway, as it it linked to the Schengen zone.

The USA already operate an electronic authorisation scheme for travel.  VISA free travel is available to UK citizens to the USA , but only if they have the USA ESTA, which is applied for online, and costs USD$14. When first introduced in 1986 it was free, it was updated into the current format in 2007 and the fee/toll/tax was introduced in 2010.

The USA ESTA is compulsory for all travel for holiday or business or transit under 90 days through the USA - by air or sea or road. It does not apply to USA citizens.

The EU scheme is the same but different. The name is different. The fee is different Euro 7 / $8 / £6. 

The EU is not a country but EU27 countries have a common passport system for EU citizens.  So generally EU Citizens won’t  need a ETIAS travel authorisation within the EU. They will to USA.

After Brexit, UK Citizens won’t be EU Citizens, nor USA citizens. So will need Travel Authorisations (ESTA or ETIAS) for all EU and USA travel. With a Fee / Toll / Tax to pay for each 3 year authorisation.

Congestion Charges

Sometimes a government create a new name for a tax - rates, toll.  With the age of the internet and online services the term fee is used to pay for a service the government decide is something you must do compulsorily and pay for it. 

in 2003 the Lord Mayor of London introduced a new tax with a guilt name attached.  The ‘Congestion Charge’ is a ’toll’ tax for anyone ‘outside’ London to travel within London by Car.   This travel charge is £11.30 a day so dwarfs the international travel charges but is applied in the UK for anyone driving a car in London. Just short of £3000 per year to drive in London.

There is currently no plan to extend this to the British Motorway Bottlenecks or Smart motorways or at the Border for EU citizens entering the UK. The Congestion Charge remains the price you pay to travel into London by Car.

Seven Bridge Toll

A Brexit Bonus arrives within the UK with the cost of travelling within the UK, from England to Wales from Somerset and Avon to South Wales being removed in December 2018. 

For thousands of years a ferry crossing across the River Seven has been charged for. Since the Middle Ages records of a ’Toll” to cross the River Seven has been made. Since the 1960’s the Seven Bridges across the 3rd largest tidal river in the world have charged a Toll to enter Wales

In the Middle Ages the British Isles were under great turmoil as it wrested with its European neighbours.  After hundreds of years of stability under the European Administration controlled from the Romans, the native Britains had been left in their green and pleasant lands to fend for themselves.

European encroachment ensured and the native British Brothers were driven backward into the land of Cymru (Welsh for Land of Brothers)

Initially the German peoples (Angles and Saxons) crossed over and established new lands in Southern Britain the West, East, South and Middle. (Wessex, Essex, Sussex, Middlesex) 

They renamed the British land Cymru into Wales (meaning “fellow countryman”).

This European solutions was then challenged by the Norway Option…. the Vikings…. With Norwegians, Danes and the Dutch peoples invading in the East and North.

At their height the Viking settlers occupied the North, East Anglia and the East Midlands, before taking over the lands of Southern Engaland. 

Bogged Down 

King Alfred, the first recognised King of all England, and King of Wessex, almost lost control completely.  The European Viking raiders forced him in exile in the Somerset Marshes.

Like Theresa May, he found himself in a sticky position, in deep water, stuck in the mud,  with the europeans in front of him, and the British peoples behind him.

Despite all the odds, he regrouped and regained control of Wessex and ultimately England.

The Seven Bridge Toll taxes being abolished removes a barrier to free movement within the UK. It reduces taxes, and the cost of delays at border crossings. Not unlike losing EU Customs tariffs could remove barrier to the UK trading around the world and allowing free movement of goods services and people globally around the world, subject to an ESTA.

Despite everything, no matter how dark the days, there is a way forward. There will continue to be travel and and trade between the UK and Europe for thousands of years to come.  There may be many battles, with fortunes ebbing and flowing with the tides along the way, from that we can make new stories, his or her stories.

Contact us, ProACT EU Brexit for Expats Experts, for a free review and guidance.