Portugal has confirmed it plans to ignore EU rules that require British nationals to be treated as third country citizens at border checks and immigration points.
The southern European nation will become the first EU member state to allow UK passport holders to be fast-tracked through electronic passport gates, thereby receiving the same treatment as Portuguese citizens and nationals from other EU member states.
The president of Portugal’s tourism board, Luis Araujo, confirmed at the World Travel and Tourism Council Summit, currently taking place in the Filipino capital of Manila, that UK passport holders can soon start using e-gates at airports in Lisbon, Madeira, Porto and Faro, in the hugely popular Algarve region.
“This move will help our valued British travellers,” Araujo was quoted as saying.
British travellers make up Portugal’s biggest foreign visitor group, with more than 480,000 hotel stays in January and February of this year alone after travel restrictions in the UK and across Europe were lifted.
Competition with Spain and Italy
The easing of the rules is seen as an attempt to lure British tourists away from other sunny destinations, primarily Spain, Italy and Greece by making it easier, quicker and more efficient to enter Portugal.
The four countries are currently in a fierce battle to attract British and other European tourists following a post-pandemic surge in holiday bookings, weekend trips and other vacations.
The travel consultant Paul Charles, of PC Agency, told the Daily Mail he expects other countries, such as Spain and Italy, to follow suit, saying Portugal’s decision could lead to “a domino effect” across the EU.
Portugal’s move comes only days after there were reports from neighbouring Spain that local authorities are refusing entry to British nationals trying to enter the country from Gibraltar.
Numerous British citizens were unable to enter Spain yesterday as authorities at the border with Gibraltar demanded to see hotel reservations and evidence of onward travel, such as a return ticket or train reservation. Those who were unable to do so were refused entry into Spain.
The development comes as Spanish authorities are stepping up controls on people from non-EU countries trying to enter the bloc via or from Gibraltar. The checks intensified earlier this week, various local media reported.
A number of travellers were also asked to show proof of funds for the duration of their stay in Spain, the Express newspaper reported, which wrote that not only Brits but also a range of other, non-EU nationals have been affected by the tighter border checks.
€7 to enter EU
The latest developments in Portugal and Spain come after City A.M. reported earlier that access to all Schengen EU countries will come at a cost from later this year.
A spokesperson for the European Commission in Brussels confirmed to this newspaper that all British travellers will have to pay a €7 visa fee.
The so-called European Travel and Information and Authorisation Scheme (ETIAS) enables citizens of 61 non-EU countries to visit the EU Schengen area with travel pre-authorisation, rather than a full visa.
The European Commission confirmed that, from late 2022, the UK will be part of ETIAS, meaning that Brits will have to pre-register their details before any trip, as well as pay the €7 levy.
Once the pre-authorisation has been approved, British passport holders will be allowed to stay in Europe up to 90 days.
The European Commission confirmed the payment and pre-registration will apply for any trips to all Schengen area states, plus the non-Schengen micro-states of Andorra and Monaco.
This means the ETIAS requirements will be in place for any trip to Austria, Belgium, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Germany, France, Spain, Portugal, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, Lithuania, Latvia, San Marino, Estonia, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Slovenia, Italy, Greece, Czech Republic, Malta, Monaco, Liechtenstein, Iceland, Norway, Switzerland Vatican City.