As Theresa May Steps Down, What’s Next for Brexit and Travel?

British flag being cut by scissors from the European union flag
Photo by egal/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Theresa May is stepping down as leader of the UK’s Conservative Party and Prime Minister following a series of failed attempts to get a Brexit deal through Parliament. May said she will officially resign on June 7, but will remain in office until a Conservative leadership contest picks a new party leader. Conservative Party officials have said that they hope a new leader could be in place by the end of July. 

According to the BBC, Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, Boris Johnson, Esther McVey and Rory Stewart are running to replace May, with more than a dozen others considering a run as well. May’s successor will be faced with the task of managing the UK’s exit from the European Union (EU), which could include gaining Parliamentary approval for another agreement with the EU, or a “no-deal” scenario in which the UK leaves without a negotiated agreement in place. 

In terms of travel, the UK’s major tourism markets already have agreements in place to ensure that flights will continue uninterrupted, whatever the Brexit outcome. Both the United States and the EU have deals in place to allow flights to continue, even in a no-deal scenario. 

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As for the traveling public, recent research has suggested that travel has remained resilient in the face of Brexit uncertainty. Millennials have been particularly optimistic, according to the latest study by MMGY Global, planning to take 40 percent more trips this year and the majority believing that any impact on passport control lines, exchange rates and airline fares would be more positive than negative. 

Additionally, recent research from the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC) suggests that the travel and tourism industry could see major growth post-Brexit, potentially helping to drive the UK’s economic recovery. That is because the UK travel industry’s growth rate in 2018, at 1 percent, was well below the worldwide average of 3.9 percent, which the WTTC attributed to uncertainty over the Brexit deal. Since the growth rate has been so low, there is a great deal of potential for growth once Brexit details are finalized. 

One scenario to watch out, for, however: some ways in which the UK might leave the EU, including without a deal in place, could lead to the imposition of a “hard border” between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Some commentators have suggested that a harder border could “damage the spirit” of the Good Friday Agreement, a peace accord that followed a period of violence in Northern Ireland commonly called “The Troubles.” 

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