What to Know about 7 New Laws in the UK?
7 new laws that are coming into place in 2021. Photo: Lancs Live

The year 2020 has been a difficult one, with the coronavirus pandemic changing all of our lives.

And with hope on the horizon in the form of a vaccine you'd be forgiven for not having given too much thought to what else is going to happen in 2021. But there are some pretty major changes to the law coming in within a matter of weeks - and most of them are tied to Brexit.

Whether there's a deal or no deal everything from traveling abroad, healthcare, and mobile phone charges are set to be affected. We have rounded up a number of the new laws taking effect in 2021 - some connected to the B-word and others not.

From immigration laws to copyright laws have a read below to see what changes next year has in store for you.

1. Freedom of movement ends and a new immigration system comes in

The UK's freedom of movement within the EU - which gives people from EU member countries the right to live and work abroad - will end on December 31, according to Mirror.

A new points-based system will then replace it, much as they have in Australia.

From January, jobs offered to non-UK workers must have a skill level of 'RQF3' or above (equivalent to A level).

Workers must also be able to speak English and secure a salary from their sponsor that meets the threshold - £25,600 or the going rate for the job, whichever is higher.

Workers who earn less than £25,600 but no less than £20,480 can still apply to work in the UK by 'trading' points against their salary - i.e. if the role is in a 'shortage occupation' such as certain science roles, engineering jobs, some IT and business jobs, medical roles and veterinarians.

The skilled worker visa will cost between £610 and £1,408 per person unless they have skills that the UK needs more of.

EU citizens (except people from Ireland), or people from Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway and Switzerland, who are living and working in the UK will need to apply to continue living in the UK after December 31, this year.

2. Drivers to be banned from picking up mobile phones

What to Know about 7 New Laws in the UK?
Photo: Daily Sun

Tighter laws surrounding using mobile phones are set to come in next year.

In 2019, there were 637 casualties on Britain’s roads – including 18 deaths and 135 serious injuries – in crashes where a driver using a mobile was a contributory factor. The government has been consulting on current laws around mobile phones in cars in a bid to make it illegal in all circumstances.

Currently, it is only illegal to make and receive calls and texts while behind the wheel. But there is no law stopping drivers from taking photographs, playing games or even scrolling through music playlists. This is because doing any of these are not classed as "interactive communication", which is the definition of the offense. Changes to make this legal loophole obsolete are underway and are expected to be introduced in the spring.

No excuse

The penalties in place for using a hand-held mobile phone while driving are 6 penalty points and a £200 fine, notes Silicon.co.uk.

“There’s no excuse for picking up a mobile phone when driving so we’re pleased this loophole will be closed,” said AA president Edmund King OBE.

“Phones do so much more than calls and texts, so it’s only right that the law is changed to keep pace with technology,” said King. “Tweets, TikTok and Instagram snaps can all wait until you park up.”

“These new rules will clarify the law and help drivers realize that this dangerous act can have the same consequences and be as socially unacceptable as drink driving,” said King. “If you cannot resist the temptation to pick up your phone, then you should convert your glovebox into a phone box.”

The government also revealed it reviewing road traffic policing and wider traffic enforcement – to look at how roads policing currently works, its effectiveness, and where improvements could be made.

3. UK travelers banned from entering EU after January 1 due to coronavirus

Brits are set to be banned from traveling to Europe when the transition period ends in January, according to reports. Strictly speaking, this would only be a temporary change but it's an example of how Covid-19 and Brexit make for a double whammy.

Currently, Brits are still allowed to travel to large chunks of the continent under freedom of movement rules. But from New Year's Day, when the United Kingdom leaves the European Union either with or without a deal, that will change.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab admitted travel could be disrupted across Europe as a result. Due to the pandemic, EU countries only allow non-essential travel from non-EU countries with low coronavirus infection rates. Currently, only travelers from eight such countries are allowed to travel into the EU, according to a report in the Financial Times.

EU officials told the FT there was no proposal to add the UK to that list of safe nations, which includes Australia, New Zealand and Singapore. Some EU member states do not even allow in travelers from countries on the safe list, reflecting the hard battle much of Europe is facing to control coronavirus infection rates.

4. End to free mobile roaming for Brits in Europe

UK mobile phone users currently get free data roaming across the whole of the EU. But after January 1, Brits will no longer get this privilege and phone firms will be free to hit you with roaming charges. You must check with your phone provider to see if you will be affected.

If you are hit with roaming charges, you can rack up a bill of £45 before you are prompted and asked if you want to spend more. At the moment EE, 02, Three and ­Vodafone say they have no plans to start charging UK customers when they’re in EU countries. How long that lasts, however, remains to be seen.

The UK doesn’t have any agreements like ‘Roam Like at Home’ with any other countries. So mobile networks already have business deals with foreign partners and shouldn’t need to negotiate these due to Brexit. So Brits don’t need to worry about international roaming getting more expensive worldwide, according to Techradar.

However, the UK Government could seek to abolish roaming as part of any new trade deals it does with the rest of the world. In fact, the consumer group Which? has called on them to do exactly that.

It says deals with the United States, Australia, and New Zealand could mean big savings for holidaymakers. But, at the time of writing, the Government hasn’t done this in the 31 trade deals it’s already agreed with non-EU countries like Japan and Canada. So we’ll have to wait and see what happens in the future.

5. Return of blue passports and what it means for travelers

What to Know about 7 New Laws in the UK?
P.M Borris Johnson holding a blue passport. Photo: Metro

Britain has enjoyed many of the privileges of an EU member state during its post-Brexit transition period, which ends on December 31st, 2020. Britons will not require visas to visit the 27 remaining member states after that, but they will lose the right to live, work or study there, and will face limits on how long they can stay without paperwork, The Economist reported.

They will have to fill in a form and pay a small fee once the EU puts in place its American-style pre-authorization system, which is due to launch in 2022. They will also find it harder to take pets into the EU.

New - or old, depending on how you look at it - blue passports become a permanent fixture from January. Burgundy passports will still be valid after Brexit until they're replaced, with all new passports issued from mid-2021 turning blue.

From next month you must have at least six months left on your passport, which needs to be less than 10 years old, in order to travel to most EU countries. Travel to Ireland does not apply.

Tourists on short trips of under 90 days to the EU will not need a visa to travel but they may be needed for trips longer than that and for work, study, and or business travel. Travelers are advised to check the advice for the country they are traveling to before planning a trip.

6. Copyright law

Changes to copyright law will come into effect on January 1, the first in almost two decades.

Its purpose is to give artists, musicians, and publishers a better chance of being paid when their work appears online. The agreement aims to provide a “balanced” approach that would protect smaller artists without causing a significant impact on the biggest internet platforms such as Google and YouTube.

The bigger platforms will now be legally responsible for the user-generated material they host in the EU. From January they will have to obtain licenses from rights-holders to show their material. Content uploaded for the purpose of caricature, parody or pastiche, including memes and GIFs will be exempt from this.

7. European Health Insurance Card expiring

The EHIC is a neat - and free - little thing that allows Brits to state-provided medical treatment in EU countries in the event of illness or accident. It also works in Switzerland, Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein and plenty of Brits take advantage with 27 million cards issued.

Unlike some travel insurance, it even covers pre-existing conditions. However, from the end of this year, the EHIC will not be valid for most Brits as we leave the EU.

Instead, travelers are advised to make sure you get travel insurance that covers their needs, particularly those who have a pre-existing medical condition. There are some exceptions.

UK state pensioners living in the EU before the end of 2020 will still be able to use their EHIC beyond 2020. UK students who start a course in the EU before the end of 2020 will also still be able to use their EHIC until their course finishes.

The same applies to so-called 'frontier workers' defined as people who work in one state and live in another. But for the vast majority of us it's just another benefit we need to wave bye-bye to.

For more updated information, please check out our KnowInsider!

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