In the penultimate article in our series, we examine the impact of EU membership on travel and tourism in Sussex and the South East.
Sussex is a popular tourist destination due to its many beautiful towns and villages and proximity to London, as well of course as the Brighton and Hastings seafronts, among others. We need to keep Sussex open for business‐ and that means keeping it open to the EU.
Both Heathrow and Gatwick provide many jobs in Sussex. Heathrow is the busiest airport in the EU, serving 72.3million people in 2013. Gatwick is the eighth‐busiest in the EU but the second‐busiest in the UK, and the UK base for the British low‐cost carrier 'Easyjet'. If the UK left the EU, it may be difficult for UK airlines to retain the rights they currently enjoy thanks to EU agreements‐ particularly in relation to the USA.
Membership of the EU means that it is easier than ever to travel across Europe ‐ all you need is your passport. In the South East of England alone, tourists from Europe brought £1 billion to our local economy last year.
Travelling to Europe has never been easier
Since the establishment of the free movement of people between European states, travel from the UK to Europe has soared. Three out of every four flights that leave the UK today are bound for the EU.
Getting to Europe by plane or Eurostar is a lot easier than it used to be. All you need is your passport and you're good to go, with no more problems trying to obtain visas. Travel within the Schengen area is even easier, as you may not need your passport at all when crossing borders within it. That means you can drive from Portugal to Poland, or Holland to Hungary, without having to stop at a single border.
One of the best policies from the European Union is the free European Health Insurance Card. This card allows you access to free emergency cover anywhere in Europe, so you don't need to worry about high medical bills. No matter where you are in the EU, you can get access to the same care that you expect at home.
A recent law that Labour MEPs helped to introduce in the European Parliament has now made mobile data and calls cheaper for you when you go to Europe, so you no longer need to worry about getting a new SIM card or switching your phone off on holiday. Better still, prices are due to fall rapidly in April 2016 and extra charges will disappear completely by June 2017. That means that you will be able to make a call to the UK from Greece for the same price as you would if you were in your own home. The EU has already helped to drive down call costs ‐ since 2000, the cost of a 10 minute call has fallen by an average of 74% in the EU.
Flights to Europe are also now cheaper than they were before, thanks to the EU breaking the monopoly of the national airlines. Any European airline can now fly between different countries so long as they meet the EU's stringent safety standards. You also have greater consumer rights when flying so that if your plane is delayed or cancelled, your airline has to help you or pay compensation.
Supports our tourism industry
The benefits of EU travel are not limited to just Britons going abroad. In the South East of England alone, we received half of our tourism related income from EU citizens ‐ that added £1bn to our local economy last year.
If you've been to the beach in the UK over the last 20 years, you may have noticed a big improvement in the quality of both the water and the sand. Appallingly, raw sewage used to be dumped into the sea on Britain's coastline right up until the late 1990s‐ a practice which has now ended. Many of the improvements are down to 'Blue Flag' beaches, a special designation that proves they are as clean as possible. 99.5% of British beaches now meet European standards and 18 of those Blue Flag designated coastlines are right here in the South East of England, including Littlehampton Beach in Sussex. You can be safe in the knowledge that many beaches in France, Italy, Portugal and Greece meet this standard too.
What happens if we leave?
The biggest impact that leaving the EU will have on your travel is by restricting entry into and out of mainland Europe. This will also have an impact on tourism in the UK, with people in other EU countries becoming more reluctant to travel through stringent UK border checks when they could easily move through other EU countries instead. It is likely that in addition to flight prices increasing due to re‐introduced tariffs, you would no longer be entitled to compensation for delayed flights.
The future of the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) would also be uncertain if the UK left the EU. Whilst it’s true that the EHIC covers the European Economic Area (EEA) rather than just the EU, it’s not clear whether the UK would remain a member of the EEA if we left the EU. This might mean that we lose our ability to access healthcare across Europe, and would be forced to pay out instead for costly travel insurance to cover health emergencies whenever you went abroad.