Scotland to Northern Eire: The world’s most formidable bridge?
Scotland to Northern Eire: The world’s most formidable bridge?
(CNN) — At the western edge of Europe lie two little islands with a complex past.

Ireland and Britain are just 12 miles apart at the Irish Sea’s narrowest point, but waters run deep here — in every sense.

For the past century, Ireland’s northeast corner has been part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

In a bid to improve domestic transport links, the UK government is now conducting a feasibility study to see whether Northern Ireland can be linked by a bridge or tunnel to Scotland, its neighbor over the water. The findings are due later this summer.

The idea is not a new one, but it’s been gaining traction since 2018, when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson gave the bridge concept his support, and Scottish architect Alan Dunlop unveiled his proposal for a rail-and-road bridge between Portpatrick in Scotland and Larne in Northern Ireland.

More recent arguments — dubbed “sausage wars” — between the European Union and the UK over trade links disrupted by Brexit have added a fresh impetus to the search for a way to create a frictionless route across the water.

Read more:

Brexit: How travel to the European Union from 2021 will change
Brexit: How travel to the European Union from 2021 will change

Technically the UK has left the European Union, but from the traveller’s point of view, nothing significant has changed during the transition phase. This comes to an end at 11pm GMT (midnight Western European Time) on 31 December 2020.

After that, life for British visitors to the EU becomes very different. The one exception is for Ireland, where very little changes: notably customs and motor insurance rules.

For everywhere else in Europe, these are the most critical changes.


Even if you have a burgundy passport with “European Union” on the cover, it will continue to be valid as a UK travel document. The problem is, from 1 January 2021, European rules on passport validity become much tougher.Read more

On the day of travel to the EU (as well as non-members Andorra, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, San Marino, Switzerland and the plucky Vatican City) your passport must pass two tests.

1. Was it issued less than nine years, six months ago?

2. Does it have six months’ validity remaining.

The reason: the UK has traditionally given renewals up to nine months’ extra validity in addition to the normal 10 years. So a passport issued on 30 June 2011 could show an expiry date of 30 March 2022.

While this was fine when the UK was part of the European Union, British travellers must now meet the strict rules on passport validity for visitors from “third countries”.

In particularly, passports issued by non-member countries are regarded as expired once they have been valid for 10 years.

While the expiry date printed in the passport remains valid for the UK and other non-EU countries around the world, within the European Union the issue date is critical.

A passport issued on 30 June 2011 is regarded by the EU as expiring on 30 June 2021. Therefore if the holder attempted to board a plane to the European Union on New Year’s Day 2021, it would be considered to have insufficient validity and the airline would be obliged to turn them away – even though the British passport has almost 15 months to run.

Until September 2018, the government appeared unaware of the problem. Once the issue was identified, the practice of giving up to nine months’ grace ended abruptly.

Border formalities

EU fast-track lanes for passport control will no longer be open to British travellers, although countries that receive a large number of visitors from the UK, such as Spain and Portugal, may make special arrangements.

The process is likely to be slower, and with no guarantee of entry.

At present, all a border official can do is to check that the travel document is valid, and that it belongs to you.

From 1 January 2021, the official is required by EU law to conduct deeper checks. They may ask for the purpose of the visit, where you plan to travel and stay, how long you intend to remain in the EU and how you propose to fund your stay.

Length of stay

From 1 January 2021, the “90/180 rule” takes effect. For holidaymakers and business travellers who normally stay a long time in Europe, it has significant effects. You may stay only 90 days (about three months) in any 180 (six months).

Example: if you spend January, February and March in the EU – totalling 90 days – you must leave the zone before 1 April and cannot return until 30 June.

You will then be able to spend the summer in Europe until 27 September, when you must leave again – and can’t come back until Boxing Day.

Any time spent in the EU up to the end of 2020 does not count. So if you spend December in Spain, the clock does not start ticking until New Year’s Day.

The UK government says: “Different rules will apply to Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus and Romania. If you visit these countries, visits to other EU countries will not count towards the 90-day total.”

British citizens can stay as long as they like in the Republic of Ireland.

People who have a work or residential visa for a specific EU country will be treated differently.


Initially they will not be needed, but from 2022 (or possibly later) British visitors will need to register online and pay in advance for an “Etias“ permit under the European Travel Information and Authorisation System.

Brexit briefing: How long until the end of the transition period?

Returning to the UK

Previously there were no limits on the value of goods you could bring in from European Union nations. From the start of 2021, the European Union will be treated the same as the rest of the world – which means that there are now strict limits on what you can bring back free of duty.

For alcohol, the limits are 4 litres of spirits or 9 litres of sparkling wine, 18 litres of still wine and 16 litres of beer, which hopefully will see you through at least an evening. Arrivals to the UK will also qualify to bring in 200 duty-free cigarettes.

“Anything that increases the availability of tobacco is a negative step for public health,” the British Medical Association says.

If you exceed any of these limits, you will pay tax on the whole lot.

There is a limit of €430 – roughly £400 – for all other goods, from Camembert to clothing.

Health care

For more than 40 years, British travellers have benefited from free or very low-cost medical treatment in the EU and its predecessor organisations. The European Health Insurance Card (Ehic) and the document it replaced, the E111, have proved extremely valuable for many elderly travellers, and/or people with pre-existing medical conditions.

Since the EU referendum, the government has repeatedly said that it hopes to establish a reciprocal health treaty mirroring the European Health Insurance Card (Ehic).

For example, the then-health minister, Stephen Hammond, said: “The department recognises that people with some pre-existing conditions rely on the Ehic to be able to travel.”

The pretence has now been dropped, and the government now says: “You should always get appropriate travel insurance with healthcare cover before you go abroad.

“It’s particularly important you get travel insurance with the right cover if you have a pre-existing medical condition.”

The Association of British Insurers warns: “Claims costs within Europe are currently reduced due to the presence of the Ehic, which covers some or all state-provided medical costs.

“In the absence of the Ehic or similar reciprocal health agreement, insurers will inevitably see an increase in claims costs – this could have a direct impact on the prices charged to consumers.”

One bit of latitude: if you enter an EU country by 31 December 2020, your Ehic will remain valid until you leave that country.

Driving licences

Your licence carries the EU symbol but, as with passports, will still be valid as a UK document from 2021 until its expiry date.

The government says: “You may need extra documents from 1 January 2021. You might need an international driving permit (IDP) to drive in some countries.”

In fact, you may need two. A 1949 IDP (valid one year) is required for Spain, Cyprus and Malta, while the 1968 version (valid three years) is valid everywhere else in the EU.

The IDP is an antiquated document available at larger post offices. Take your driving licence plus a passport photo and £5.50 for each permit that you need.

Motor insurance

Under the European Union 2009 motor insurance directive, any vehicle legally insured in one EU country can be driven between other European nations on the same policy.

From 1 January you will need a “Green Card” – an official, multilingual translation of your car insurance that demonstrate you meet the minimum cover requirements for the country you’re visiting.

Insurers will generally provide them free of charge, but require around two weeks’ notice.


At present, there is no legal agreement for any flights between the UK and the European Union from 1 January 2021.

The transport secretary, Grant Shapps, says: “The government’s priority is to ensure that flights can continue to operate safely, securely and punctually between the UK/EU at the end of transition period, regardless of the outcome of negotiations.

“Air travel is vital for both the UK and the EU in connecting people and facilitating trade and tourism, and we are confident measures will be in place to allow for continued air connectivity beyond the end of 2020.”

Some UK airport disruption caused by tough new passport rules may occur in the first few days if significant numbers of British travellers are denied boarding.


Ships will continue to sail and trains will continue to run, but the National Audit Office (NAO) warns that motorists taking their cars to France on ferries from Dover or Eurotunnel from Folkestone face waits of up to two hours once the Brexit transition ends – and that queues could be “much longer” in summer.


Passenger trains linking London St Pancras with Paris, Brussels and Amsterdam will continue to run – but because of travel restrictions applied in response to the coronavirus pandemic, services are currently extremely limited.

Mobile phones

From 1 January 2021, the EU-wide ban on roaming charges for phone calls and internet use no longer applies to people with UK mobile phones. Providers will be free to impose whatever fees they wish.

But all the big providers have told The Independent they do not intend to bring back roaming charges.

O2 says: “We’re committed to providing our customers with great connectivity and value when they travel outside the UK. We currently have no plans to change our roaming services across Europe, maintaining our ‘Roam Like At Home’ arrangements.”

3 says: “We’ll give you free EU roaming just the same.”

EE says: “Our customers enjoy inclusive roaming in Europe and beyond, and we don’t have any plans to change this based on the Brexit outcome. So our customers going on holiday and travelling in the EU will continue to enjoy inclusive roaming.”

Vodafone says: “We have no plans to reintroduce roaming charges after Brexit.”

Should these or other providers introduce roaming charges, the government says it will cap the maximum for mobile data usage while abroad at £49 per month unless the user positively agrees to pay more.


For many years British travellers have been able to take a cat, a dog or even a ferret abroad with minimal formalities.

The government says it is “working with the European Commission to ensure a similar arrangement for pet travel between Great Britain and the EU from 1 January 2021.

“However, if an agreement is not reached there could be new requirements in place for those travelling with a pet from Great Britain to the EU from 1 January 2021.”

The hope is that the UK will become a “Part 1 listed country” under the Pet Travel Scheme. This would be the least bad option compared with what we have now.

But the issue is still not settled, so for now we have to assume the worst – that the UK will be “unlisted”. In that case, your pet must have a blood sample taken at least 30 days after its primary rabies vaccination. That sample will be sent to an EU-approved blood testing laboratory.

Then, you must “wait three months from the date the successful blood sample was taken before you can travel,” according to the government.

So if you start the process on 1 January 2021, you should be able to take a pet abroad from 1 May 2021.

One thing we do know: coming home will be no different. “There will be no change to the current health preparations for pets entering Great Britain from the EU from 1 January 2021,” says the government.

PES tourism ministers’ declaration: a way forward to relaunch European tourism
PES tourism ministers’ declaration: a way forward to relaunch European tourism

Tourism ministers from Spain, Italy, Malta and Portugal today signed a joint declaration calling for a coordinated relaunch of European tourism which boosts the industry and guarantees the health and safety of tourists and local populations.

The ministers resolved to safeguard the future of European tourism, calling for the new recovery instrument – Next Generation EU – to support the sector and the communities and regions affected by this crisis.

After adopting the declaration, Maria Reyes Maroto Illera, Spain’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism and Chair of the PES Tourism Ministerial Network, said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic is continuing to have serious social-economic consequences for the tourism sector. It is time to ensure that this industry, its businesses and its workers receive the support needed for the safe and sustainable recovery of European tourism. This is particularly true for the countries, islands and other peripheral areas, whose economic survival often depends on tourism revenues.

“With the opening of borders and the start of the summer holidays period, we must ensure that all citizens have the opportunity to safely travel and enjoy their well-deserved summer break. In this endeavour, we need a coordinated approach with common European rules guaranteeing the safety of both workers and tourists. This how we will succeed in regaining public trust in the tourism sector to deliver quality and safe services.”

The declaration backs a non-discriminatory approach to reopening borders based on a common European process, rather than bilateral agreements. This is now especially pertinent considering the opening of borders for third-country nationals.

For citizens, the declaration backs harmonised safety rules at European level to regain public trust in quality and safe tourism. It calls for strong consumer protection and the move towards a more uniform scheme across Europe. A large communication and promotion campaign aimed at increasing the visibility of Europe as a tourist destination is also needed.

For tourism workers, the ministers strongly back the Commission’s Support to mitigate Unemployment Risks in an Emergency (SURE), spearheaded by Commissioners Paolo Gentiloni and Nicolas Schmit, and call for it to be implemented as soon as possible. Training must be offered to workers who either lost their job or cannot find seasonal work because of the crisis.

Representatives from the PES signed the declaration after meeting by videoconference earlier this month to discuss tourism and the COVID-19 crisis.

Tourism plays a central role in European societies. It is a driver for citizens’ wellbeing, contributing to social cohesion, employment and economic growth. Tourism accounts for more than 10% of the EU’s GDP and provides 12% of its jobs. It is one of Europe’s strongest ambassadors, promoting European culture and identity at home and abroad.

The declaration has been signed by:

  • Maria Reyes Maroto Illera, Minister of Industry, Trade and Tourism, Spain and Chair of the PES Tourism Ministerial Network
  • Dario Franceschini, Minister for Cultural Assets and Activities and Tourism, Italy
  • Julia Farrugia Portelli, Minister for Tourism & Consumer Protection, Malta
  • Rita Marques, Secretary of State for Tourism, Portugal
Schengen key to recovery: interview with civil liberties committee chair
Schengen key to recovery: interview with civil liberties committee chair

“EU Borders should reopen as soon as possible,” according to Juan Fernando López Aguilar, chair of Parliament’s civil liberties committee . Learn more in our interview.

After months of free movement in the Schengen area being suspended, Parliament is calling for a swift and coordinated return to normal. Ahead of a vote on the Schengen area situation in the June plenary, Spanish S&D member Juan Fernando López Aguilar , chair of Parliament’s civil liberties committee, discussed how to restore the borderless zone and the lessons learned from the Covid-19 crisis.

When will the internal borders in the Schengen zone reopen?

They should reopen as soon as possible, that’s my message. But apparently it’s not going to happen in full before early July. Our committee has been reminding member states that they are bound by European law, the Schengen borders code. The law says that all restrictions should be time-framed and that the grounds for suspension should be reasonable and proportional.

Now the important thing is that the [European] Commission oversee the restoration of free movement in a phased timeframe. Interior ministers need to coordinate all extensions of restrictions with the Commission. It is obvious that without Schengen there will be no recovery [from the pandemic]. In my view, without Schengen, there would be no European Union.

Read more on what the EU can do about the reopening of Schengen borders

Does the Schengen zone need better coordination and governance?

There has been a deplorable lack of coordination. Member state governments have not lived up to their obligations, which are binding. They should have communicated before [suspending Schengen] with each other and the Commission so that the latter could ensure the suspensions are time-limited and not discriminatory to some citizens. In the process of restoring the normal functioning of Schegen, we will ensure that these mistakes become lessons learned.

If there is a second wave of infections, what should we do differently in Europe? Is closing borders the best way of preventing the spread of the virus?

Let’s face it, the pandemic took us by surprise. Unprecedented measures were taken. It challenged the liberties that we took for granted for many years. Free movement has been suspended and that’s damaging. But, precisely because the situation was unprecedented, we have to show some understanding with the errors of governments in their efforts to secure public health, which is their number one priority.

Watch the full interview, which also delved into Schengen enlargement, migration, asylum and the use of personal data in the fight against Covid-19, on our Facebook page.

Hotel Botánico & The Oriental Spa Garden recognized as Best Destination Spa in Europe 2020
Hotel Botánico & The Oriental Spa Garden recognized as Best Destination Spa in Europe 2020

The Hotel has received the recognition of the publication ‘Condé Nast Johansens’ at the World Travel Market for Europe and the Mediterranean

Hotel Botánico & The Oriental Spa Garden, located in Puerto de la Cruz on the island of Tenerife, has become the Best Destination Spa in Europe and the Mediterranean 2020, after receiving the Condé Nast Johansens award. This award, of great international prestige, recognizes, thanks to the votes of customers, the excellence of its facilities.

This award has been handed out at the World Travel Market fair and joins the other certifications with which Hotel Botánico and its complex The Oriental Spa Garden have been recognized. It values its effort to optimize its services. Among its recent accreditations are, for example, the recognition of Condé Nast Johansens as the best hotel with Spa in Europe and the Mediterranean or the prestigious TUI Holly 2019, with which it has been ranked as one of the 100 best hotels in the world.

Hotel Botánico, a commitment to excellence

The Hotel Botánico*****GL is a prestigious five-star spa hotel located in the beautiful and peaceful north of Tenerife, with privileged views of the Orotava Valley. The Hotel offers unique suites and first-class facilities that blend magically with its paradisiacal surroundings. The rooms are fully equipped with all kinds of state-of-the-art services and amenities, including a modern noise-control system that ensures a peaceful and pleasant atmosphere.

Botánico Slim & Wellness, a unique concept of dietary haute cuisine in Tenerife

Under the direction of Patrick Jarno, who has made a name for himself in Brittany with his food concept, the Hotel Botánico has launched this year its Botánico Slim & Wellness concept, a holiday that can only be possible in Puerto de la Cruz, in Tenerife, a place known for having the best climate in the world, 365 days a year.

A meticulous programme, developed together with renowned chefs from Brittany, eliminates fat, favours the conscious consumption of proteins and carbohydrates and enhances the original flavours of the ingredients and the freshness of the products. These, cooked in the right proportion, provide a feeling of satiety without compromising on the joy of eating.