MILLIONS of Brits could be barred from entering EU countries from January 1 unless they renew their passports.
Tourists heading to the Continent will need at least six months remaining on their travel documents under rules set to be introduced at the end of the Brexit transition period.
Brits have previously been able to travel freely in EU member states and the Schengen area with a valid passport, regardless of how close it is to its expiry date.
The change in rules is expected to trigger a last minute dash to renew passport applications ahead of the looming deadline.
Some travellers applying online have been told they face a two-month wait to see their passports renewed – putting New Year trips in jeopardy.
Simon Rippon, a professor of philosophy working in Austria, said he was informed that it would take up to eight weeks to renew one of his children’s passports.
He said: “There will be a lot of people sent home from their flights because they didn’t know they needed to have a passport that fits the new criteria.”
It also means that tourists whose passports expire in the summer of 2021 won’t be able to travel in the Spring, potentially dashing holiday hopes if coronavirus travel restrictions are eased next year.
The Passport Office issues five million new documents every year, so around 2.5 million Brits could be impacted by the change.
Passports must also be no more than 9.5 years old as part of the new rules.
The coronavirus pandemic has also seen all Passport Office branches shut for face-to-face visits, making processing applications even more difficult.
It was reported in July that logistical issues caused by Covid-19 had forced the government to admit that it is “taking longer than the usual three weeks to process applications”.
Experts have warned that, even with valid passports, Brits could face delays at the border as they will have to queue with other non-EU nationals.
Travellers may also have to show a valid return ticket and proof that they have enough money for their stay.
Visas will not be needed for tourist trips – but stays will be limited to 90 days in a six-month period.
The change poses a threat for holiday home owners, who often spend months in the European sun.
It is estimated that around half a million Brits have holiday homes on the Continent.
It comes as Boris Johnson has sent negotiators back to Brussels as talks between the UK and the Bloc hit a deadlock this weekend.
In a joint statement, the Prime Minister and EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen admitted “no breakthrough” had been made following a phone call between the two leaders.