UK Election Could Delay Brexit Negotiations; Impact on Travel Unclear

London Eye - ZoltanGabor/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images
Photo by ZoltanGabor/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

Following a snap election in the UK, many analysts are predicting that negotiations over the country’s Brexit vote to leave the European Union (EU) could be delayed, with the impact on travel unclear. 

CNBC reports that the election resulted in a “hung Parliament,” with UK Prime Minister Theresa May losing her parliamentary majority. 

The Prime Minister had called for the snap election back in April. The plan was to use the election to gain more seats in Parliament and push for stronger support for May’s Brexit negotiations. 

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According to an analysis in the BBC, the loss of seats by May’s party in the election could make Brexit negotiations more difficult, as it raises the possibility that the Prime Minister could be unable to sell the tough trade-offs required by a negotiation at home. That result raises the possibility of a “cliff edge” scenario, in which the UK exits the EU with no deal in place. When the UK formally triggered the start of Brexit negotiations in March, it resulted in a deadline of March 2019 by which talks would have to conclude. 

According to The Guardian, Michel Barnier, the EU’s chief negotiator, said that talks should start “when the UK is ready.” At the same time, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker said that a delay in negotiations may be unavoidable, as “The dust in the UK now has to settle.”

With the new potential for a delay in negotiations, the path ahead for travel remains unclear. Thus far, the biggest impact of last summer’s vote to leave the EU has been the fall in the value of the pound, which has boosted visitation to the country as U.S. travelers moved to take advantage of comparatively lower prices. In fact, London set a new overnight visitation record last year, with 56 million overnight stays.

At the same time, new reports indicate that the recent series of terrorist attacks in the UK and elsewhere in Europe could be having an impact on travel. Allianz Global Assistance recently reported that it had received 70 cancellation claims from U.S. travelers following the terrorist attack on the London Bridge. That followed an earlier study by the travel insurance company, released before both the London Bridge attack and the Manchester bombing, that forecast travel to London would rise this summer by 36.55 percent over last year

Further complicating the picture is the specter of the laptop ban, which Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly told a House of Representatives panel Wednesday could be expanded to apply to 71 additional airports in Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Kelly’s deputy will attend a conference in Malta next week to present “minimum increased security standards.” If other nations are able to meet those standards, the ban will not be necessary, Kelly said.

If the ban is expanded to include flights from Europe, however, the impact on travel could be severe, travel groups have warned. The Business Travel Coalition (BTC) forecasted that expanding the ban to include flights from Europe could affect as many as 3,500 flights per week this summer and 65 million passengers per year. Business travelers would be particularly hard-hit, the BTC warned, as many companies have policies that prevent their workers from checking laptops in order to protect sensitive data. Keep visiting www.travelagentcentral.com for the latest travel industry news, trends and updates. 

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