On December 31, 2020, the transition period for the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU ended. In the future, relations between the two parties will be governed by an extensively negotiated partnership agreement. But what does Brexit mean for travelers? Do they have to fear roaming charges for cell phone use abroad again from now on? atechbook asked the providers and clarifies.
Since the EU Roaming Regulation came into force on June 15, 2017, travelers in other EU countries no longer pay roaming costs for cell phone use. This means that phone calls, sending text messages and surfing the Internet cost the same as in the home country. Until now, this regulation also applied to Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as they were part of the European Union. But with the United Kingdom’s withdrawal from the EU and the transition period expiring on January 1, 2021, this is changing. Here we summarize how German mobile providers are reacting to this and what Brexit will mean for roaming in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales in the future.
No roaming charges for the time being even after Brexit
In principle, the network operators are now free to charge for the use of German SIM cards in the United Kingdom with the successful Brexit. This is because Great Britain and Northern Ireland are no longer part of the European Union and therefore do not fall under EU roaming regulations. Whether such special surcharges are levied, however, also depends on the arrangements that mobile providers in the states have made with each other. For example, although Norway and Iceland are not part of the EU, it has been agreed to integrate the countries into the EU roaming regulation. The British and German mobile phone companies also want to continue to cooperate and waive roaming costs, as atechbook has learned on request.
In detail, this means that Telekom, Vodafone and O2 will refrain from charging roaming fees for cell phone use for the time being, even after the UK leaves the EU.
Deutsche Telekom told the German Press Agency that nothing would change for travelers for now, even in the event of an unregulated Brexit. “With us, the UK will remain included in EU tariffs, just as Switzerland, for example, is already included now,” officials said. Deutsche Telekom’s EU roaming plan already includes countries that are not part of the European Union, such as Norway, Switzerland and Iceland. In the future, Great Britain and Northern Ireland will also be integrated into this regulation.
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Similar to Telekom, Vodafone also expressed its views. The network operator wants to continue to include the UK in its EU roaming regime after Brexit, as long as the country does not express itself otherwise and actively initiates a withdrawal. Vodafone already includes some non-EU countries such as Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein in its roaming regulation and thus allows cell phone use there without additional costs. This regulation is also to apply to the United Kingdom.
Precisely, the statement to atechbook says: “Brexit and EU roaming are two different pairs of shoes. For example, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein have been participating in EU roaming regulation for years, even though they are NOT members of the EU. After Brexit, it is first up to the UK to decide whether they want to continue participating in EU roaming regulation. The UK has so far decided to remain part of the EU roaming zone for the time being, even after leaving the European Union. Therefore, nothing will change in terms of tariffs and the existing roaming regulation with the UK for the time being.”
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The third major German network operator Telefónica/O2 was a bit more specific in its statement on the roaming consequences of Brexit. With the exit from the EU, the UK would thus be classified in a different country zone, a spokeswoman said. Countries in world zone 2 generally incur significantly higher costs for call minutes, text messages and mobile Internet. However, O2 wants to waive these even after Brexit, she added. Accordingly, Telefónica Deutschland is extending the currently applicable roaming tariff conditions for the UK until at least the end of 2022. “For O2 customers with the UK as their destination, the current conditions of their respective tariff are valid until further notice,” the provider said.
Entry, flights, insurance and Co. – what the Brexit still changes for travelers, you can read at the colleagues of TRAVELBOOK.
The provider 1&1, which operates in the O2 network, makes a similar statement. “For 1&1 customers, EU roaming will be possible in the UK as before, even after Brexit and until further notice,” the statement told atechbook. “Nothing will change in the existing arrangement for the time being with the official EU exit of the UK on January 1, 2021, as there is no clarity yet regarding follow-up agreements. Agreements made by the EU with the UK may also have an impact on our roaming regulations. Of course, we will inform our customers about possible changes in good time.”
1&1 has just extended the regulation on continued EU roaming in the UK by one year until the end of 2022. In the statement to atechbook, the provider also writes that a further extension of the transition period is possible. However, this would depend, among other things, on agreements between the EU and the UK and talks with partners. Customers want 1&1 to inform them in good time about upcoming changes.