Parliament, London

The government of the United Kingdom – the House of Commons and the House of Lords – meets in this building, officially known as the Palace of Westminster. A royal palace existed on this site from the 11th century. The current building may look like it dates to that time, but most of the previous structures were destroyed by a fire in 1834.

Brexit – what changes after January 1, 2021?

In 2016 the United Kingdom (UK) voted to leave the European Union (EU). It's been a long, slow, and messy slide toward the final divorce. The UK officially departed the EU on January 31, 2020. Negotiations over how the UK and EU will deal with each other in terms of trade and travel have been going on for the last 11 months, somewhat hampered by the COVID pandemic, but on January 1, 2021 it's all over. Either the UK and EU will reach a deal, or they won't (a situation more likely to affect trade between the regions, than it will travelers).

The BBC has a good run down on the major changes effecting UK and EU citizens here, but almost none of this applies to US citizens traveling as tourists.

What changes will be in store for Americans traveling to the UK, to the Continent, or in between? Almost nothing. For Americans arriving in the UK or the EU from the US, of course, nothing changes. You'll still have to go through immigration control, standing in the line for non-EU citizens, and show your passport. If you are traveling between the UK and the EU, you'll also need to go through immigration and show your passport – but that was the case even while the the UK was part of the EU. There have always been passport controls for Americans traveling between the UK and EU (except on the border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland).

So what does change? Well, you can now buy merchandise – like alcohol – duty free and get a tax break when traveling between the two. It's unclear yet just what, if any changes will be made to border crossings between Northern Ireland (UK) and the Republic of Ireland (EU). Citizens of either will still be able to move freely between them, but there may be border controls and passport checks for those who are not citizens of either (like Americans).

In short, Brexit is a big non-event for Americans.

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