Portugal has broken ranks to become the first EU country to defy Brexit by treating British holidaymakers the same as EU citizens at its borders.
The Portuguese government has opened its e-gates to British travellers, enabling them to be fast-tracked seamlessly without having to queue for hours for manual checks, as previously required under Brexit.
Britons will no longer be treated as “third country” visitors as demanded under Brexit, but will have a special e-gate channel for the three million UK holidaymakers who visit Portugal every year.
The move to establish frictionless travel as if the UK was in the EU’s borderless Schengen zone will be seen as an attempt by Portugal to lure Britons away from other southern European summer hotspots popular with UK holidaymakers.
The UK is Portugal’s biggest overseas tourist market with nearly 484,000 “room nights” clocked up by Britons in January and February alone, the highest of any country.
Its new border policy could force countries such as Spain, France, Greece and Italy to follow suit. British tourists account for a substantial slice of all four EU states’ tourist revenues.
Although Brexit means Britain is treated as a “third” country by the EU, individual EU states are free to set their own travel rules.
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Luis Araujo, the president of Turismo de Portugal, told The Telegraph that opening the e-gates would “provide increased accessibility for our valued British travellers, as we head into the busy summer period”.
He added: “We’re delighted to have made travel to Portugal even more seamless for those able to make the most of the new e-gates.”
Paul Charles, the chief executive of the PC Agency, a travel consultancy, said: “Portugal is clearly leading the way in recognising that they have to process vast numbers of British visitors as seamlessly as possible otherwise there would be long queues this summer.
“So it’s a clever way of differentiating themselves from other countries who are not processing in the same way. I think you will see other EU countries follow this approach otherwise British travellers will face long delays going into France, Spain, Greece, Italy and other countries.”