The looming return of roaming charges after Brexit will cost business people visiting the EU up to £778 a month, new research shows as Independent reports.
The fees for using international data within the EU – axed under a Brussels agreement last June – are set to be brought back after Theresa May announced the UK would leave the “digital single market”.
Now House of Commons officials have helped calculate the financial hit for business travellers, if prices return to the level before roaming charges were abolished.
The research puts the extra bill at £195 if foreign mobile companies exploit their new freedom to ramp up the price for local firms to use their networks. But the additional charges soar to £778 if those local mobile carriers also push up the cost for their customers to the maximum allowed before the cap.
The expected fees are much higher than the £61 top-up run up by holidaymakers before the EU acted – because business travellers use so much more data. They consume 4.5 GB – for a typical six days abroad each month – sending many hundreds of emails containing graphics, on video conferences and sharing work on social media, perhaps including videos and music.
“The cost of a hard Brexit on British travellers is becoming abundantly clear,” said Alex Sobel, a Labour MP and supporter of the anti-Brexit Best for Britain group.
And Mike Spicer, director of research at the British Chambers of Commerce, said: “Businesses want answers to the practical questions they face when conducting business in Europe.
“They will want to see the UK and the EU reach a deal to ensure that roaming charges don’t come back, which would add unnecessary cost to doing business overseas.”
The Government has admitted it will need to strike a special deal with the EU in order to avoid a return of roaming charges after Brexit.
Furthermore, EU commissioner Günther Oettinger, told the European Parliament that a standalone UK-EU roaming agreement would be in breach of World Trade Organisation rules.
The Prime Minister is aiming to strike a wide-ranging free trade agreement with the EU after Brexit – but no such agreement to date has incorporated rules on roaming charges.
The Department for Culture, Media and Sport said two phone operators – Vodafone and Three – had already committed publicly not to impose roaming charges after Brexit. But it admitted: “Arrangements on mobile roaming would be subject to any negotiations. However, a future partnership between the UK and EU is clearly in the interests of both sides.”
Ms May revealed the exit from the digital single market in last month’s Mansion House speech, in which she said Britain had to face up to “hard facts” about Brexit, including reduced single market access.
“On digital, the UK will not be part of the EU’s digital single market, which will continue to develop after our withdrawal from the EU,” she said.
“This is a fast evolving, innovative sector, in which the UK is a world leader. So, it will be particularly important to have domestic flexibility, to ensure the regulatory environment can always respond nimbly and ambitiously to new developments.”
It is unclear whether fees will return as early as Brexit day next March, or at the end of the planned 21-month transition period – given the UK will effectively remain within the single market in the interim.
The only countries outside the EU that escape roaming charges are those – like Norway and Iceland – which are part of the single market.