Eurostar + Brexit: is this a terrible idea?
January 24, 2019 2:25 AM   Subscribe

I foolishly booked a trip to London, by rail, around Brexit Day (29th March). Should I still go?

My plan was to travel on the 27th March, attend a training course in central London on the 28th and 29th, visit family outside of London on the 30th, and travel home on the 31st. I'd be able to see my brother on his birthday and spend time with my baby niece, which happens quite rarely as I live in Switzerland.

The course is something I want very much to do, but it's not essential for my job. I've already paid for it (several hundred pounds). I've also booked train tickets from Z├╝rich to Paris and then to London, via the Eurotunnel. Normally I would claim these expenses back from my work, where I get a set budget every year for further education, but if I end up not taking the course at all I don't think that would be feasible.

On the other hand, the trainer seems quite flexible so it's possible I could switch to another set of dates. (I've already messed her around a bit sorting out payment, though, so I'd rather not bother her more if it's not necessary.) The train tickets can be rescheduled for a price, though not refunded.

I'm inclined to go, despite the uncertainties about travel and food supply after Brexit, but I know this might be the sunk-cost fallacy speaking. The hostel I'm staying in is walking distance from the course location, and I have friends who have offered to put me up in case I get stuck in the UK. I wouldn't necessarily enjoy waiting for hours at St Pancras station to check in or get onto my train home, but I could put up with it so long as there was going to be a train.

I'm a UK citizen and not worried about being let back into Switzerland. There's already an agreement between Switzerland and the UK to allow British citizens to continue living there under the previous conditions.

My partner, on the other hand, says I absolutely should not go. He says it will just be miserable and the risk of getting stuck in the UK for weeks is too high. What would you do? What else should I consider?
posted by daisyk to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
You know this already but it's probably not going to be the best time to be travelling so if you can reschedule (and eat whatever costs that entails) then you at least won't spend the next 6 weeks worrying about what ifs.

However, whilst it's possible (or even probable) that there will be delays, uncertainty and holdups during that time period, I think the probability of getting stuck in the UK "for weeks" is nil even if that means you end up having to take another form of transport (that gets unstuck sooner than Eurostar) to get back.

Having said all this, the whole level of political discourse in the country at the moment is that nobody has a clue what the state of play will be on March 29th and what each potential state of play will actually look like so you might be better off (and less stressed) not playing with fire and staying at home.
posted by jontyjago at 2:35 AM on January 24


I don't think food shortages are something you need to worry about, especially if you're leaving on the 31st. The issues will be longer term than that, and to do with imported food (like the shops might run out of Italian olive oil or tomatoes grown in Spain more often) - the shelves will not be bare at 12:01am on the 29th March.

I also agree you will not be stuck in the UK - worst case scenario is probably just that passport control will take longer than usual, and since you're leaving a few days after the 29th you should get a bit of warning if the queues for the Eurostar are longer than usual, for example.
posted by EndsOfInvention at 2:46 AM on January 24 [2 favorites]


There won't be any issue. The UK already isn't in the Schengen area, so as far as immigration controls go, it won't be any different. I wouldn't have any hesitation if I was in your position.
posted by ryanbryan at 3:06 AM on January 24 [5 favorites]


The short answer is "nobody knows".

The long answer is that civil servants are currently trying to negotiate transport access between the Continent and the UK, so there is a chance that your train won't be allowed to head into French territory for a few days or weeks until the countries have reached an agreement. It has less to do with immigration checks and more to do with transport agreements re. rail maintenance, roads and so forth. Source: civil servants of my acquaintance.

I'd probably weigh up the uncertainties and land on the "wait & see" side, but your mileage may vary.
posted by kariebookish at 3:17 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


The chances of us actually leaving the EU on the 29th March are slim at this point. In the highly unlikely event that we crash out of the EU without a deal, food is not going to be an issue for quite some time.

I don't think you'll be stuck here for weeks, you're not due to return until several days after Brexit, so any problems may well be resolved by then.
posted by missmagenta at 3:54 AM on January 24


The UK already isn't in the Schengen area, so as far as immigration controls go, it won't be any different.

The Schengen Zone isn't relevant here (though the OP will presumably end up in the non-EU line, which is invariably slower). The question is whether the train itself will be going.

Personally (and to be clear, this is fueled by my own immigration anxiety), I would want to be absolutely sure you were not threatening your status in Switzerland by not being physically present on the 29th of March (and able to prove you were). (Of course, Switzerland might be organized and know who all the British citizens living there are and sent you a letter reassuring you or something. Naturally, the Home Office only opened their registration scheme in the UK in the last few weeks.)
posted by hoyland at 3:59 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


Eurostar: A casualty of Brexit?

Short summary: Without any agreements, all Eurostar services would be suspended after March 29. Work is being done now on a bilateral agreement. There are no assurances these will be completed in time.
posted by vacapinta at 5:11 AM on January 24 [5 favorites]


My plan was to travel on the 27th March, attend a training course in central London on the 28th and 29th, visit family outside of London on the 30th, and travel home on the 31st. I'd be able to see my brother on his birthday and spend time with my baby niece, which happens quite rarely as I live in Switzerland.

If you can still do all of those things (obviously you won't get to see your brother on his actual birthday, but assuming you still get to see him and spend as much quality time with the family) if you reschedule the trip, I'd try to do that now. If it is an easy fix, great, if not, I'd hold off on doing anything more drastic. You can still cancel on March 25th if things still look bad then, but I'm with missmagenta: for better or worse, this whole thing is likely to get delayed.
posted by Rock Steady at 7:30 AM on January 24


If the train ended up being cancelled, could you get some kind of cheap-ish EasyJet-style flight back to Switzerland? I mean, even if they cancel the train it's not like they're going to hold you hostage in the UK ...
posted by mccxxiii at 8:54 AM on January 24 [1 favorite]


If the train ended up being cancelled, could you get some kind of cheap-ish EasyJet-style flight back to Switzerland?

I believe the transport negotiations include airspace. Whatever issues would lead to the train being cancelled would also mean airplanes would not fly.
posted by kariebookish at 12:04 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


There appears to be a decent chance nonstop flights to and from the UK will continue, based on public statements from the EU, assuming the UK government don't throw a fit and do something drastic in response to UK airlines/pilots no longer being allowed to fly intra-EU flights.

There should also be less difficulty regarding ferries, so even in the event that transport problems arise, it's not super likely you'll get stuck as long as you have some spare cash and won't get fired for not being back as planned. If nothing else, you could find your way to NI, cross into Ireland, and take an intra-EU flight home. Delays are likely, but you'd eventually get through somehow.
posted by wierdo at 8:00 PM on January 24 [1 favorite]


If nothing else, you could find your way to NI, cross into Ireland

Although it's unclear at this point what the situation at the NI/ROI border will be if there's no deal.
posted by borsboom at 6:51 AM on January 25


There won't be any issue. The UK already isn't in the Schengen area, so as far as immigration controls go, it won't be any different. I wouldn't have any hesitation if I was in your position.

Eurostar chaos predicted because of inability to use the e-passport gates.
posted by vacapinta at 12:24 PM on February 22


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