Brexit ID card withdrawal “catastrophic” for UK companies dependent on student travel

A leading figure in tourism has described the impact of the Brexit measure on banning European arrivals from using identity cards as “catastrophic”.

Joss Croft, CEO of UKinbound, commented The independent after the latest data from VisitBritain showed that 5.87 million visitors arrived from abroad during the first four months of 2022 – almost half of the 11.53 million arrivals in 2019.

He said: “These data remind us of the devastating impact the pandemic had on the UK’s inbound tourism industry, but also point to why our members only expect the business to return to 50 per cent before the second half of this year’s pandemic.

“Another obstacle our members are facing this year is the implications of Brexit, such as the removal of ID cards, which has had a catastrophic impact on the international student travel industry.

“EU school groups are choosing to travel to alternative English-speaking destinations such as Ireland, where they can still use their ID cards for entry, instead of the UK, at a cost of millions of pounds to regional economies across the UK that would normally be hosted. these students. ”

Since October 2021, around 300 million EU citizens who have ID cards but not passports have been excluded from the UK.

EU citizens, and those from the wider European Economic Area plus Switzerland, can travel to dozens of European countries on their national identity cards – including all European nations outside the EU except the UK.

In addition, citizens of many EU countries, including France, Germany, Italy and Portugal, can use ID cards to visit Egypt, Tunisia and Turkey.

When the ban on identity cards came into force, Interior Minister Priti Patel said: “By ending the use of insecure ID cards, we are strengthening our border and delivering up to the people’s priority to regain control of our immigration system.”

In 2021, almost half of all false documents discovered at the border were EU, EEA or Swiss identity cards, according to the Ministry of the Interior.

Since August 2021, all new ID cards issued by EU countries must comply with the highest security standards, as prescribed by the UN International Civil Aviation Organization, which require them to be machine readable and contain a microchip with the holder’s details.

But the Home Office says: “Even if a new security standard for ID cards is introduced across the EU, cards will still be in circulation for the next five to ten years that do not comply with these standards.”

Commenting on the latest inbound tourism figures, VisitBritain said: “We predict a gradual upswing through 2022.

“By the end of 2022, we estimate that visits will have reached around two – thirds of the levels before Covid, although recent flight booking figures suggest that the result may be ahead of this.”

But Joss Croft of UKinbound said: “Rising prices and recruitment problems threaten the recovery of the UK’s second largest services export industry, inbound tourism, and therefore it is important that the authorities listen to and work with the industry to implement workable solutions that will ultimately help the UK recover. “

The fall in the value of the pound against the euro – down around 15 percent since the EU vote – makes the UK more economically attractive to foreign visitors.