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UK warns free European roaming may end in 2021

The UK government has published guidance on how travelling to Europe will change when we properly leave the EU at the end of this year.

Most of it is mundane, commonsense bureaucratic stuff to do with passports, driving licenses, etc. Irritatingly for the Brexit catastrophists is the news that there will be no need to apply for a visa for normal visits to any European country. So it looks like the Côte d’Azur, Costa del Sol and Tuscan villages won’t be rid of us as easily as expected.

One real issue we will have to deal with when we leave, however, is the matter of mobile roaming. The EU was responsible for forcing operators across the continent to stop charging extra for roaming on their networks, which has been very handy for things like checking the footie scores on the beach and publishing evidence of how much better your trip is than everyone else’s.

Freed from the EU’s benign tyranny, there’s no obligation for continental operators to play nice with UK ones and the opportunity to fleece our tourists will present itself once more. That doesn’t mean they’ll have to take it, of course, but that won’t stop the alarmist news stories predicting mass bankruptcies resulting from bill shock being written.

“From 1 January 2021, the guarantee of free mobile phone roaming throughout the EU, Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway will end,” warns the site. “Check with your phone operator to find out about any roaming charges you might get from 1 January 2021. A new law means that you’re protected from getting mobile data charges above £45 without you knowing. Once you reach £45, you need to opt in to spend more so that you can continue using the internet while you’re abroad. Your phone operator will tell how you can do this.”

Since the mechanisms for free roaming are already in place, European operators would have to actively change them to start charging again. This looks like a great opportunity for businesspeople and politicians to sort something out in the coming months to ensure our relationship with the continent is undiminished by us leaving its mega-bureaucracy. If the last three years are anything to go by, however, the chances of them doing so are slim.

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