What happens to mobile phone roaming charges after Brexit?

We can all thank the European Union for scrapping all the add-on charges for roaming when travelling across the 28 states of the EU .

Since last year, UK consumers have been able to use the minutes, texts and data included on their mobile phone tariffs when travelling in the EU.  As have all EU citizens within the bloc.

There are fair use limits.  For instance, it would be unfair to take a mobile phone contract in Greece and then use it all year round in the UK.

However, before the rules changed, using a mobile phone abroad in Europe was expensive.  There were thousands of cases of people returning from trips to find bills for thousands of pounds!

So what does happen after Brexit?  If the UK leaves the EU on 29 March 2019 as planned, without a withdrawal agreement in place, change could happen immediately.  Should there be a ‘transition period’, changes will apply from 31 December 2020.

UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, has been clear that: "The UK will not be part of the EU's Digital Single Market, which will continue to develop after our withdrawal from the EU."  Explicitly, the EU regulation prohibiting roaming charges will not automatically be part of UK law.  UK mobile network operators, if they choose to, may reintroduce the charges.

The White Paper on leaving the EU proposes "new arrangements for services and digital sectors, recognising that while the UK and the EU will not have current levels of access to each other's markets, the approach would not preclude discussions with the EU on arrangements for consumers, for example in the area of mobile roaming, if that would be in the mutual interests of both sides."

We interpret this as meaning that it depends on the future UK-EU deal, yet to be negotiated.

Perhaps the UK Government will create its own laws regulating roaming fees after Brexit - but this would be hard to impose without a reciprocal agreement with operators across the whole of the EU.

What do the Mobile Operators say?

“3” has committed to maintain the availability of roaming in the EU at no additional cost following Brexit". 

Vodafone thinks it is too soon to assess the implications of Brexit on roaming regulation - but  that competition will drive customer charges - and currently has no plans to change its roaming charges.

EE (BT) has no firm plans to introduce charging.  They have called on the UK government "to put consumers at the top of their agenda in the Brexit negotiations to help ensure that UK operators can continue to offer low prices to our customers".

O2 said: "We currently have no plans to change our roaming services across Europe.  We're engaged with the government with regards to what may happen once the UK officially leaves the EU."


John ShuttleworthComment