UK tourists face mobile roaming charges post-Brexit

6 Feburary 2017,  theguardian.com,

Leaked document says EU ban on roaming charges due to come into effect in June will not apply to UK travellers

British tourists will have to pay mobile phone operators’ roaming charges when they travel in the EU after Brexit, according to the European parliament committee that helped pioneer the legislation.

Despite a ban on the practice, holidaymakers and business travellers will face hefty bills if they use their phone within the EU from 2019, unless the British government strikes a favourable deal with the union.

Last week, the European commission announced that, from June this year, “consumers will be able to call, send SMS or surf on their mobile at the same price they pay at home” when travelling in the EU.

The move, which has been years in the making, would significantly reduce travel costs. However, a leaked analysis on UK withdrawal from the EU confirmed this would not apply to Britons post-Brexit.

The document was drawn up earlier this month by the European parliament’s committee on industry, research and energy, and endorsed by MEPs. It states that “regulation (EU) No 531/2012 on roaming will no longer apply with respect to the UK, impacting business and other travellers to and from the UK” and that “transitional arrangements will be necessary”.

In recent years, the EU has slowly forced phone operators to reduce their roaming charges. Other companies have voluntarily dropped them as they sought a competitive edge before the expected 2017 ban.

In 2014, before roaming charges started to be reduced, 20% of UK mobile users travelling to the EU faced higher than usual bills for usage, according to data from Uswitch. The average charge added to bills was £61, and 17% of those affected faced bills of £100 or more.

The Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “From the cost of food and petrol to mobile phone bills, Brexit is hitting consumers in the pocket. Families shouldn’t pay the price for this government’s reckless hard Brexit plans.

“Theresa May must fight to keep hard-won benefits for British consumers like reduced roaming charges in the negotiations.

“This shows again why the British people must get the final say on the government’s Brexit deal once its full impact becomes clear.”

The European parliament’s analysis also raised the question of the UK’s role in a consortium of member states that is monitoring spacecraft and space debris for the potential benefit of the EU.

“The Space Surveillance and Tracking (SST) Support Framework provides for the establishment of a consortium of member states that own and operate the necessary sensors for tracking spacecraft and space debris and process the relevant data,” it says. “The UK is part of this consortium, but there is no provision for third countries to take part in the consortium.

“Should the UK continue to participate in some capacity and make a financial contribution and how should that be arranged (this would likely require an international agreement)?”

The chair of the committee, Jerzy Buzek, a Polish MEP, writes in a foreword to the document that the paper is an initial assessment of the law and that he expects his colleagues to be involved in any negotiations.

“It is important to recall that, given the short time available for their preparation and the fact that the UK position is still unknown, [the analysis] can only constitute a very first assessment of the situation,” he says.

“It is therefore essential that the parliamentary committees be closely involved in following the negotiations and in the consent procedure as well as in discussions on any transitional arrangements and the future relationship, so that parliament can benefit from the substantive knowledge held in the committees.”

Source: theguardian.com