Campaigners for the UK to remain in the European Union (EU) have admitted that consumer-friendly caps on mobile telephone roaming charges for British users are “likely to stick” in a post-Brexit world.
In selling the benefits of the EU to the electorate, cuts to roaming charges feature as one of the most popular arguments employed by the Remain campaign. The consumer-friendly Eurotariff means the cost of calling, texting and browsing in the EU has been slashed with a cap imposed on services to put a stop to excessive prices, saving British consumers an estimated £350 million a year. From 15 June 2017 roaming charges will cease to exist in the EU.
The pro-EU website InFacts, which describes itself as “a journalistic enterprise making the fact-based case for Britain to remain in the European Union”, has rubbished ‘Project Fear’-style tactics from the Association of British Travel Agents who claimed this week that Brexit could jeopardise those consumer protections.
Writing about roaming charges for InFacts, Jack Schickler — a former speechwriter at the European Commission, and policy advisor at HM Treasury and the UK Representation to the EU — admitted: “In reality, they seem likely to stick.”
Already Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway benefit from the Eurotariff despite not being members of the EU. Giving evidence about roaming charges to a House of Lords Select Committee on European Union, Minister of State for Culture and the Digital Economy Ed Vaizey (a Remain supporter) was asked about the implications of Brexit. He said:
I still think that British consumers would benefit. Norway, for example, is not a member of the European Union, but it will benefit from this package as it is a member of the European free trade area.
It is dangerous for any government Minister to comment on what may or may not impact on people’s views when they vote in this referendum. As we experienced with the Scottish referendum, it may be that everything, including the kitchen sink, is thrown into the argument and that roaming charges become part of that debate, but my instinct is that, should the British public decide to leave the European Union, that will not impact on their roaming ability in Europe.
In addition to Mr. Vaizey’s comments, InFacts says continuing with the Eurotariff post-Brexit makes sense because it would not only be in the interest of British travellers going overseas, but also to EU citizens wanting to use mobile data when visiting the UK.