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This well-researched question about the impacts of Brexit on travel was recently closed, apparently on the grounds that the best answer to the question is not immediately available at the time the question is asked.

The closure means nobody should be allowed to answer this question (or one closed as a duplicate of this) in the future, which does not seem appropriate. There is also a "Post is related to a rapidly changing event" tag (example here) which could be applied to Brexit questions, but apparently closure is better?

By contrast, here is a similar and very well-received question about visas (which the one in question was distinguished from), with similar motivation:

Unlike British politicians, I like to plan ahead and be prepared. If I am going to need a Schengen visa, I want to assemble the documentation early next year, so I can apply to the appropriate country as soon as I have an itinerary and it is at most 90 days before travel. Given how things are going, I am preparing for a hard, no-agreement, Brexit.

I looked at that question when writing the now-closed one and it led me to believe such questions were on-topic.

The accepted answer notes:

This answer is accurate at the time of writing. Any country might suddenly close their borders after you book but before you travel. That is a risk that always exists for future travel.

It seems like such questions and answers were once regarded as potentially valuable, but maybe should now be closed, because nobody currently knows just what will happen and the situation might change in the future, and there is no point in attempting to prepare for the future assuming no change from the present trajectory.

There are currently 1320 questions with the tag, 612 of which are closed.
Should the rest all be closed for consistency, as such questions do not appear welcome here?

If not, what is the relevant decision rule which should apply?


As the closed question has been automatically deleted, here is a summary per request.

The question title was

"How will Brexit affect flight transits through the UK/London?"

It stated in bold, This question is not about traveler visas. It gave some brief background and stated "For the purpose of this question, assume the status quo trajectory" which at the time of the question (and still as of this edit on the meta question) is "no-deal Brexit" which might might affect the availability of aircraft/fuel/supplies/etc. to enter the UK on inbound flights from the EU and then be available for the connecting departure. The question summary asked:

Assuming status quo trajectory as of the time an Answer is posted/updated, how will Brexit affect flight transits through the UK currently scheduled for shortly after Brexit? Recognizing exclusions in travel insurance policies, are there effective ways to insure against/mitigate these negative outcomes?

The end of the question also stated:

This question will remain open to new answers without an Accepted Answer until after Brexit, inviting good answers especially citing authoritative sources for upvotes earlier.

Comments on the question basically said "it's not possible to know exactly what's actually going to happen or what deal will be negotiated, and any answer would likely involve speculation, so the question should be closed and never answerable by anybody. It's also not worth it for anybody to even try to prepare for travel that may be affected, except to just avoid travel. VTC."

It was a well-researched question citing sources from relevant government, media, and airlines about how they are/aren't preparing, and what rules might apply or be relevant. The nontrivial number of hours it took to prepare turned out to be a waste of effort which could not help anybody.

Yet, other questions (which are lower quality according to guides of how to ask a good question) are staying open and even making it onto our HNQ list; the inconsistency is prompting this meta thread. Clarity of what is in and out of scope is helpful for a site. It's rather frustrating and discouraging of constructive contributions when there is a lot of inconsistency and caprice regarding what is and is not allowed.

  • Hi WBT! I've been following this interesting discussion. I noticed that your first link leads to a deleted question. I don't know if you want to elaborate in here as to what it said, since it seemed important to your point! – Sue Mar 13 at 3:36
  • @Sue I've edited it in now. 10K users can see (and vote to undelete) the original, but that's just 76 users on this site. – WBT Mar 13 at 18:04
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The problem with such questions is that you are asking us to speculate on what 'deals' may be in place on specific policy matters even if there is no deal overall (a so-called 'no-deal' scenario).

In principle, these are not bad questions, but they are limited to what has been agreed or what the parties involved have said they want to agree for such a scenario. A similar question has been asked on Politics.SE, though does not ask about the traveller per se but more about whether there has been an agreement to allow commercial flights between the territories and under what conditions.

From my perspective, these seem to be mostly unilateral decisions, e.g. the EU will allow such and so for UK carriers and vice versa. What you will see is that over the coming weeks, as no-deal becomes a more likely outcome, the need for such arrangements becomes stronger. As such, I wouldn't be surprised if there are a number of measures that will be announced in the weeks leading up to the Brexit date.

What that means for your question is that answers become outdated and newer, lower-voted answers may be better. Obviously, that's the case with any question about programming languages that get updated or laws that get revised. The difference here is that your question is mostly relevant in a very specific time frame during which the 'right' answer may change or turn out to be false (e.g. no measures were taken but in the end people were allowed in regardless or there could just be chaos because officials weren't clearly instructed).

In the end, I think these questions are useful but it might be helpful to put an 'situation is subject to rapid change' notice under the question.

  • Re: answers changing: for example, an answer I just posted here is an example of that, demonstrating that if there is going to be some rule against questions where answers are likely to change in a fast-moving field, lots of otherwise valid questions will need to be scrubbed from SE. – WBT Feb 27 at 20:13
  • @WBT there is no avoiding things becoming outdated. See also this post. Ironically, that answer is years old but still relevant. – JJJ Feb 27 at 20:16
  • Apparently, there is a way of avoiding things becoming outdated: don't allow questions to which answers may become outdated! This meta question is intended to support discussion on that apparently now-implemented strategy; your answer seems to suggest that is unlikely to be the best option especially compared to a notice bar or just accepting that sometimes things become outdated and new answers can be added. – WBT Feb 27 at 20:21
  • @WBT there's also the issue that we may not have any answer yet. For example, we could ask JFK airport still exists in 2055. That seems pretty pointless to ask now. So that might be something to account for and we could for example decide that such questions are downvoted at users' discretion (as is the case now?) and that only answers which provide some source or speak from experience (which is hard when speculating about the future) are allowed. Otherwise we could just add two answers to that question: yes and no and see how people will vote. ;) – JJJ Feb 27 at 20:25
  • There could be an answer now though. On the JFK example, maybe somebody would like to a press conference where the governor and airport administrators announce plans to close and bulldoze the airport in 18 months' time to make room for a new Presidential golf course. That kind of information might be helpful for the person asking, who may be considering whether or not to make some travel-related investment with future value affected by such an action, if they want to make the best decision possible based on what admittedly incomplete information is available at the time of the decision. – WBT Feb 27 at 20:30
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    @WBT sure, but then a better question would be if there has been an announcement to close JFK. ;) – JJJ Feb 27 at 20:32
  • @Yes, that would be a better wording of the question. However, as the answer could change in the future, it would seem out of scope under current apparent policy. This Answer suggests a perspective under which such a question would be likely more acceptable. – WBT Feb 27 at 20:34
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I disagree with the closure/putting on hold of the question here and of all Brexit questions in general.

We have a history of responding also to rapidly changing events (I believe there even is a similar-nomed mod-tag for this), e.g. in the case of the 2016 military coup in Turkey. The same or similar could be applied here.

And if there is currently no answer to a specific question (as will often be the case with regard to Brexit), a good answer will state as much (and in addition give sources, potential scenarios, alternatives, ...). There is also nothing wrong with leaving such questions unanswered, perhaps with someone remarking in a comment why so.

By just closing questions that are not-answerable at the moment we are taking the easy path, however at the same time failing our mission to be nice and helpful. Somewhere on Meta it says: if you can't answer a question in a decent manner, refrain from answering.

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The problem with all Brexit questions is that the answer should read: "We don't know."
There are a few questions with answers and those answers are in conflict with each other because the rules will be different depending on how the exit will turn out.

No deal, deal as discussed, partial deal, postponed exit and so on.

Most of the questions that get closed here get closed by the community, with vote to close. As mods we sometimes help it along but it seems the crowd here has the view I explained, close as we can not answer.

  • 1
    So that's generally a yes, that these questions should generally be closed? – WBT Feb 27 at 17:23
  • I think the community is doing right, leave some open for now and close most. We could mark all as copies of one or two questions, I personally do not think it is needed to close all or almost all, the community is doing well enough now. – Willeke Feb 27 at 18:17
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    Clarity of what is in and out of scope is helpful for a site. It's rather frustrating and discouraging of constructive contributions when there is a lot of inconsistency and caprice regarding what is and is not allowed. Should even the meta question be closed, on the same grounds that there's no good way to know the best answer? If it's whatever five random people decide and there's definitely no way to predict that nor use in discussing it, closure would be best, though still frustrating. – WBT Feb 27 at 19:32
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I disagree with comparing Brexit to rapidly changing events disrupting travels because those are now and actual relevant advice can be given. Yes the answers might get outdated and we might need a tag to flag questions as rapidly changing or something like that.

On the other hand, we can't give Brexit answers. Noone, not Theresa May, not Jean-Claude Juncker, absolutely noone has the slightest idea of what will happen. All answers are just speculation.

So I agree with closing all Brexit questions on spot.

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The problem with any rapidly changing event is that any answer could quickly become irrelevant as soon as a final resolution is reached. If we have 100 open questions about Brexit on Mar 28th, we'd potentially need 100 new answers on Mar 29th once the Brexit deal/no-deal is finalized. And since Travel.SE aims to ensure that as many questions as possible are up to date, this would create a significant problem for us.

Hence my opinion as a mod is that all but a few such questions should be closed until Mar 29th. Once the smoke clears, we can reopen some of those and give out proper answers. Up until then existing EU rules continue to apply and there is no useful information we can provide.

  • What about travelers preparing now for trips then, and seeking guidance based on what admittedly incomplete information may be available now? Are travelers supposed to follow the lead of British politicians and just not prepare? – WBT Feb 28 at 20:15
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    @WBT travelers should be aware that a period of uncertainty is coming. Only possible advice is to either hope for the best or cancel their trip. – JonathanReez Feb 28 at 20:48
  • I don't think those are actually the best options. I think there is a middle road of trying to understand the situation as it stands and take advantage of potential mitigations other travelers may have found (e.g. "ABC and XYZ travel insurance cover this risk.") – WBT Feb 28 at 20:52
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    @WBT yes but how do you suggest we try and understand when the decision makers themselves are unable to find some sense within the problem? I'm not trying to be political here but the only certainty is that no deal means immediate repositioning of hard borders with Great Britain. Everything else is speculation. – JoErNanO Mar 5 at 6:45
  • @JoErNanO Then the question becomes (was already) what does that immediate repositioning of hard borders mean in terms of aircraft availability, and what strategies might mitigate the negative impacts? When questions are closed, they are closed and send a message duplicates should not be opened. They are not "temporarily closed until March 29th." – WBT Mar 5 at 14:03
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Brexit questions in general should remain open and receive answers as best they can---which will change over time as events unfold. However, the question you linked should be closed for other reasons: It's too convoluted for a question on this site due to its exploration of many hypotheses and theories.

Its core question, taken by itself, would be fine for this site: "How will Brexit affect flight transits through the UK currently scheduled for shortly after Brexit?" The final answer is currently unknown but current answers could describe current information, and new answers can be added as information becomes known.

  • It's too convoluted for a question on this site due to its exploration of many hypotheses and theories. The "How do I ask a good question?" guide says it's important to "Search, and research" and thoroughly search for an answer before asking your question. Showing one's research is traditionally a very important element in a good question. If you think that should not be the case, let's open a new Meta question on that. – WBT Mar 5 at 14:50
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Should the rest all be closed for consistency, as such questions do not appear welcome here?

This would be a very kneejerk reaction to the issue. There are many categories of questions related to brexit. Some are mostly not answerable "what will happen?", while others certainly are "how to prepare for (some trip)?", "where to find information about changes regarding ...?", etc.

Even questions which ask "what will happen?" have answers about likely outcomes - if the official source can present two separate and likely cases clearly, why would we expect less from people answering questions here? Speculation ("I think this will happen") is different from presenting alternatives ("these are the options we know of at the moment, these are the likely situations, these are things you could do"). The second one still gives you a real answer, even if you can't tell which option will come true.

Closing all of them just because they share a topic would be heavy-handed and not help anyone. Close those that are low value or the answer really is "don't know and can't know".

  • The closed question sought the information of what we know at the moment on the current path, which could be answered, instead of seeking information about other possible paths. There could be a real answer to that, but we will not have the opportunity to hear/read any such answer because the question is closed and as a result, auto-deleted. It was a very well-researched question, not "of low value," and as stated above, scope consistency matters. – WBT Mar 13 at 2:08

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