EU TRANSITION PERIOD
The Transition Period (TP) following the UK’s exit from the EU closes on 31 Dec 20. Although UK Service Personnel and their dependants assigned to NATO or Exchange/Liaison Officer posts in the EU have some protection under the NATO Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) or individual MOUs, the UK’s future relationship with the EU following the TP may introduce additional measures that UK personnel will need to be aware of. EJSU will continue to monitor this closely and notify UK Service Personnel and their families of any measures that may impact upon them.
Latest UK Government News
- Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke in the House of Commons on the deal agreed with the European Union.
- Scottish Secretary Alister Jack comments on the UK and EU today reaching a deal on their future relationship
- Command Paper sets out the UK Government’s delivery of its commitments to the people of Northern IrelandThe Government has published details of an agreement in principle on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
- The government is urging businesses to sign up to the Trader Support Service as the Brexit transition period ends next month.
- Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove made a statement in the House of Commons on preparations for the end of the Transition Period.
- The British Embassy in Brussels has been holding meetings across Belgium to update UK citizens working and living in the country regarding the UK's departure from the European Union.
End of Transition Period Planning
As part of the 2019 Withdrawal Agreement, the UK and the EU agreed the UK’s exit would be followed by a time-limited Transition Period, which will expire at 2300Z on 31 December 2020. Though the government remains committed to obtaining a UK-EU trade deal, the MoD has again started to conduct prudent planning, in respect to the UK becoming a ‘Third Party Nation’ (No Deal Scenario) on 1 January 2021 as per https://www.gov.uk/transition. Though most of the HQ EJSU’s focus has been diverted by COVID during the first six months of 2020, we have always kept an eye on 1 January 2021 and the possible impact on personnel and their dependants of those serving in the EU in a No Deal Scenario.
Travelling in Europe
Passports. The rules on passport validity are changing for travel to the EU. Service Personnel, Civil Servants and their dependants should have at least six months left on their passports from the date they are due to travel. This applies to adult and child passports. If a passport was renewed before it expired, up to 9 extra months may have been added to the new passport’s expiry date. Any extra months on the passport over 10 years may not count towards the 6 months that should be remaining for travel to most countries in Europe.
What should you do? If you are living in the EU/EEA or expect to conduct travel to an EU/EEA country you should ensure your passport will be valid for travel to the EU using the passport checker on the gov.uk website (www.passport.service.gov.uk/check-a-passport). You will need to have 6 months left from the day of your arrival, excluding any extra months added if you renewed your passport early.
Additional Documentation – Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA). Applicable to all personnel and dependants in Europe holding SOFA status. All NATO Service Personnel, Civil Servants and their dependants will be required to have a Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) stamp in their passport. This provides additional confirmation of legal status within the nation to which you are assigned. SOFA stamps are issued by your National Support Element (NSE) on joining. All personnel (Service Personnel, Civil Servants and dependants) ‘The SOFA certificate is an expanded version of the SOFA Stamp, sometimes written in both English and the Host Nation languages, and outlines entitlements to Privileges, Concessions or Services’. Upon arrival in post at your assigned location you will receive a SOFA certificate as a routine part of the arrivals process. You should keep this with you at all times when travelling in the EU. You should get in touch with your NSE if you have any questions about SOFA stamps/SOFA certificates.
Travel to non-Schengen EU countries. Please note that Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Ireland and Romania are not in the Schengen area. You should check the entry requirements for these countries before you travel.
What should you do? All UK military personnel, civilian component and dependants should confirm that a SOFA stamp and SOFA certificate has been issued by their NSE. This includes for children of personnel who would normally reside with their parents but are attending schooling in the UK.
The EU Settlement Scheme
In both a deal and no deal scenario, EU, EEA and Swiss national spouses, partners and dependants accompanying Service Personnel and Civil Servants overseas who have previously been resident in the UK will have their time abroad on posting counted towards UK residence under the EU Settlement Scheme.
If you are currently on assignment within the EU, EEA or Switzerland with dependants who are EU, EEA or Swiss nationals they will be able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme once they have been to the UK. They will be able to return under current rules until 29 Mar 2022 even if they have not lived here before.
The Home Office has published guidance on the EU Settlement Scheme (page 61), which provides advice on how you can evidence time spent overseas on a posting https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/899738/main-euss-guidance-v6.0-gov-uk.pdf. If your dependant is unable to demonstrate that they were in the UK before posting you should follow the guidance at https://www.gov.uk/eusettledstatus
What Should you do? Applications to the EU Settlement Scheme are now open and will remain so until at least 31 December 2020. If you have dependants who are EU, EEA or Swiss nationals who have been to the UK previously, they are able to apply to the EU Settlement Scheme now.
Should you be assigned to a NATO post in an EU/EEA country you are entitled to continue to use your UK driving License IAW with the NATO SOFA in that country (https://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/official_texts_17265.htm) as follows:
SOFA Article IV The receiving State shall either:
- accept as valid, without a driving test or fee, the driving permit or license or military driving permit issued by the sending State or a sub-division thereof to a member of a force or of a civilian component; or
- issue its own driving permit or license to any member of a force or civilian component who holds a driving permit or license or military driving permit issued by the sending State or a sub-division thereof, provided that no driving test shall be required.
However, if you transit to another EU/EEA country you will need to check that you are able to use your UK Driving license without an IDP at https://www.gov.uk/driving-abroad/international-driving-permit
The supported population is encouraged to acquire IDPs which, although not legally required, will avoid any inconvenient confusion.
You are to hold the following to drive legally in an EU country:
· a. A UK Driving License (The address on your license should be your BFPO Address).
· b. A ‘green card’ (or multiple green cards) demonstrating proof of insurance for your vehicle(s).
· c. And pre-Host Nation registration a GB sticker for your car, even if you have a GB identifier on your number plate.
You will also need to ensure you comply with host nation vehicle registration requirements. Your NSE can provide advice.
The UK’s future relationship with the EU may impact upon the documentation required to confirm proof of vehicle insurance. It may be necessary for UK motorists to carry the internationally-recognised green card as proof of third party insurance.
What Should You Do: You should confirm with your insurance provider for the necessary documentation required for travel to the UK after the Transition Period has ended.
Arrangements for accessing healthcare for you and your dependants when operating in your duty nation or when you are travelling on duty will remain the same in both a deal and no deal scenario. You will continue to be supported and have access to healthcare.
The latest guidance with regard to EHICs and GHICs are at the following link https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/healthcare-abroad/apply-for-a-free-ehic-european-health-insurance-card/
Duty travel outside of the country of your assigned location. Before proceeding on duty, to or through another country, personnel are to ensure they have adequate Med provision.
When you are conducting duty travel outside of the country of your assigned location:
- Ensure that you understand the arrangements that will apply to enable your access to healthcare when travelling on duty. Different arrangements may be in place depending on which country you are travelling to. You should not assume that provision in a country to which you are travelling is the same as that of your assigned location. Check with your Chain of Command.
- Ensure you have conducted ‘sign-out’.
- Carry your passport & SOFA certificate.
- Carry your MOD 90/NATO ID.
- Be aware of and carry the contact number for your healthcare provider in the country to which you are travelling . You must check with the Chain of Command what number you should use if you are unsure.
Further advice on ensuring you have adequate medical cover can be obtained from the Chain of Command through SO2 J1 Med EJSU Maj Mark Reed at Mark.Reed283@mod.gov.uk or on 0032 6544 2254.
Leave travel. You and your dependants are not covered medically when you go on leave outside of the country of your assigned location. It is your responsibility to ensure that you and your dependants are medically covered by travel insurance. Anybody with pre-existing conditions e.g. diabetes, heart disease or cancer, may need to investigate specialist insurance. There is no difference to taking a day trip by car, France – Belgium, from going on holiday, France – Peru, it is your responsibility to ensure you and your family are adequately covered by a travel insurance.
Customs: Privately Owned Goods and Vehicles
The UK’s future relationship with the EU may impact the movement of personal effects and motor vehicles to the UK and in particular affect the rules governing VAT. Information on applying for Transfer of Residence relief can be found at www.gov.uk/government/publications/application-for-transfer-of-residence-tor-relief-tor01.
Customs: Dutiable Goods
The UK’s future relationship with the EU impact upon the import and export allowances of goods. This means the amount of dutiable goods that our host nation permits SOFA entitled individuals to import and export monthly.
|Item||Import (Into Europe)||Export (Duty Free i.e. From Belgium/EU to UK)|
|Spirits||2 Litres||10 Litres|
|Wine & Beer||2 Litres||90 Litres|
|Pure Coffee Extract||125g||125g|
|Mixed Coffee Extract||250g||125g|
If you are expecting to travel with a pet to the EU after the Transition Period, you should take the necessary steps to ensure your pet can travel in accordance with UK and EU regulations. Today, this process can take over 4 months
. So You should contact your vet well in advance of travel and review www.gov.uk/brexit-pet-travel websites to get the latest advice. Similarly, if you’re living in the EU and plan to travel with your pet using a UK-issued pet passport from 1 January 2021, you should speak to your vet for advice on travel.
If you have a pet passport issued by an EU member state, you can still use it to bring your pet to the UK. You can also use it to return to the EU, as long as your pet has had a successful rabies antibody blood test. You must ensure the blood sample is taken at least 30 days after the date of rabies vaccination.
If the blood sample is taken in the UK, you must wait 3 months before you travel back to the EU. You do not have to wait the 3 months before travelling if your pet has a successful blood test before leaving the EU.
What should you do? To make sure your pet is able to travel from the UK to the EU in any scenario, you should contact your vet at least 4 months before travelling to get the latest advice. Further information can be found at www.gov.uk/brexit-pet-travel.
Privately Owned Weapons
UK residents who want to travel to the EU with their firearms or shotguns will no longer be able to apply for a European Firearms Pass (EFP) from 1 January 2021.
Instead, you should check the firearms licensing requirements of the EU country you’re travelling to, ahead of travelling. These requirements will also apply if you will be in an EU country with your firearm, covered by a EFP, when we leave the EU
From 31 December 2020 some UK-based building societies and banks may choose to no longer provide financial services to customers living in certain EU/EEA countries. Your bank or finance provider will contact you if they need to make any changes to your product, the way they provide it, or withdraw services altogether. UK Government employees working and living overseas are classed as Crown Servants. Barclays, Lloyds Banking Group and Nationwide have confirmed that they will exempt customers who are UK Crown Servants from announced closures. You can further mitigate this situation by using your BFPO address. The below links provide advice on what to do if you are contacted by your bank as a member of the Armed Forces or Civil Service serving and living overseas.”
Defence Gateway: https://jive.defencegateway.mod.uk/docs/DOC-467006
Managing the Impact to Assignments and Household Moves
Mail and Postal Services
Important International & EU Mail Import/Export Changes
Changes to UK and international law will affect how mail and parcels will be cleared in the future and these new laws, which are driven by aviation security and fiscal requirements, will be getting much stricter throughout 2021. These changes start to be introduced as the UK/EU transition period ends and from 1 Jan 21, parcels posted to/from BFPO customers located in EU/UK will require either a Royal Mail Customs Notification 22 (CN22), Customs Notification 23 (CN23) or Parcelforce Customs Pack (CP72) and Electronic Customs Data (ECD). Please note, that it is the senders responsibility to ensure that the new regulations are followed and failure to comply could result in items being seized and subjected to additional VAT/clearance charges prior to release by local customs authorities. In extreme cases, it could also lead to your parcels being returned or destroyed.
Ordering Online Goods for BFPO Overseas Addresses (including the EU)
What’s changing. New customs declaration procedures (CN22/CN23/CP72/ECD) will need to be completed by the seller/sender for products destined for overseas BFPO locations. Ordering/sending customers should have the opportunity to either pay VAT/clearance charges (if applicable) up front or opt for these charges to be paid by the recipient under local country arrangements. Additionally, from March 2021, there will be a requirement to supply ICS2 EU customs pre-arrival data which will be linked to your parcel and new mail VAT processes are scheduled for introduction in July. Further BFPO announcements will follow.
Posting Items at a Post Office Counter
What’s changing. When sending items to overseas BFPO addresses, you will be required to complete customs declarations forms in more detail than before, and in particular ensuring that exact contents and value are shown. Your local Post Office Counter staff will be able to take you through this process.
Please note, that BFPO, who act solely as the shipping agent, have no responsibility or influence in customs matters and this responsibility rests with the sender or the selling/sending company.
Official Guidance on Mail Import/Export can be Found at:
UK Government Site
Royal Mail Group
The UK.GOV link Check what you must do in the country where you live, clearly states what the changes will mean to a UK expats in a certain EU country. It should be noted that not all of these changes effect UK members of the Force and if unsure individuals are to approach their NSEs in the first instance for clarification.
What to do if you identify a EU Transition Issue?
Should you experience any issues in location which you believe are attributed to EU Transition you are requested to feed them to HQ EJSU via your NSE and in an emergency out of hours to the EJSU Duty Field Officer – 0032479911075.
For more information please visit the official Government web Site