Airlines ask EU countries to exempt Britain from Covid travel ban set to kick in on January 1


Airlines have asked EU countries to exempt Britain from the coronavirus travel ban set to kick in on January 1.

Firms such as EasyJet and Airlines UK were joined by the World Travel and Tourism Council in calling for clarity.

The UK and EU are negotiating a trade deal for after January but on Wednesday Boris Johnson returned from Brussels with ‘significant differences’ remaining.

But a deal may not include Covid travel rules, which allow non-essential trips into the EU from countries where cases are low, such as Australia and New Zealand.

Despite Britain having lower infection rates than 18 of the 27 EU member states, officials say there are currently ‘no plans’ to add it to the ‘safe’ list.

The EU advises against non-essential travel within the bloc, but most citizens can still travel freely between the 27 member countries despite the coronavirus pandemic.

Britain would not automatically be exempt from the third-party country rules even if the PM were to strike an 11th-hour deal with EU chief Ursula von der Leyen this week.

Firms such as EasyJet and Airlines UK were joined by the World Travel and Tourism Council in calling for clarity over a no deal Brexit (file photo)

The UK and EU are negotiating a trade deal for after January but on Wednesday Boris Johnson returned from Brussels with 'significant differences' remaining (file photo of Heathrow)

The UK and EU are negotiating a trade deal for after January but on Wednesday Boris Johnson returned from Brussels with ‘significant differences’ remaining (file photo of Heathrow)

President of the World Travel and Tourism Council Gloria Guevara said there were ‘compelling reasons’ for the UK to be added to the exemption list.

She told the Guardian: ‘British travellers are a major contributor to European economies [and] the biggest proportion of inbound travellers to many major EU countries, such as Spain, Portugal and Cyprus.’

EasyJet said there was no law forcing EU member states to cap entry from outside the Bloc.

A spokesman said: ‘Just as they do today, we expect individual European countries to continue to apply their own rules.’

Airlines UK added: ‘We expect EU member states that gain enormously from the tourism and air travel from the UK, and the billions of pounds it generates, to continue to apply their own rules in order to provide certainty to consumers and families looking to travel to the EU from January onwards.’

British Airways and Ryanair would not comment.

Von der Leyen pushed the button on the EU’s no deal Brexit plans yesterday as she urged increasingly panicky member states not to do ‘side deals’ with the UK.

Arriving for a European summit in Brussels, the commission president warned the situation was ‘difficult’ and insisted leaders would discuss the situation later, after a ‘final’ deadline of Sunday was set to come up with a way of settling the disputes over level playing field provisions, fishing rights and enforcement.

The comments came as the EU published contingency plans, with what appeared to be an offer to smooth disruption to freight and air travel in return for ongoing access to UK waters.

Non-EU ‘safe’ countries:

Just nine countries from outside the EU have been deemed ‘safe’ enough for tourists to be allowed in.

To be on the ‘safe’ list, countries must have infection rates below the EU average on June 15, and infections must be stable or falling.

The current list includes:

– Australia (0.03 cases per 100,000)

Australian citizens are barred from leaving the country unless for emergencies or on business, while all returning citizens must quarantine in their city of arrival for 14 days. Entry to Australia for all other citizens is closed, with limited exemptions

– Japan (1.8 cases)

Japan has barred entry for all foreign tourists, with only very limited exemptions available, while all returning citizens must undergo a coronavirus test and quarantine for 14 days.  

– New Zealand (0.05 cases)

New Zealand’s border is closed to almost all overseas visitors, except for citizens returning from overseas who must undergo tests and quarantine for 14 days. All citizens have been advised not to travel overseas 

– Rwanda (0.3 cases) 

Travellers to Rwanda must test negative for the virus before they travel, and then undergo a second test on arrival. They will be quarantined until they test negative.

Citizens leaving the country will be screened for the virus at airports, and anyone with symptoms will be taken into quarantine and tested. They must remain in quarantine until they test negative.

– Singapore (0.15 cases)

Foreign tourists are not allowed into the country, with exemptions for Australia, Brunei, mainland China, New Zealand and Vietnam, provided visitors are tested on arrival and isolate until they test negative.

Citizens returning from overseas must isolate for between seven and 14 days on arrival, and undergo a test unless returning from an exempt country. 

– South Korea (1.2 cases)

Visas are required for entry, with almost all non-essential visas being denied. Those who are granted a visa, including returning nationals, are required to quarantine for 14 days. 

– Thailand (0.02 cases)

All visitors to Thailand are banned, with exemptions for diplomats, relatives of Thai people, and medical emergencies. Those arriving in Thailand, including nationals, are required to quarantine for 14 days and may be turned away if they are suspected of having Covid.

– Uruguay (7.7 cases) 

Borders are open, but arrivals must be carrying a negative test result taken 72 hours before departure, and must quarantine for seven days on arrival and take a second test – or quarantine for 14 days without the test. 

– China (subject to reciprocity, 0.008 cases) 

Tourists are banned from entering China, but foreign arrivals from a handful of low-infection countries are allowed provided they are for work, personal affairs or family reunions.

All arrivals must test ‘double negative’ on both an infection and antibody test taken no more than 48 hours before arrival, and quarantine for 14 days on arrival.

By comparison, the UK has an infection rate of 24.5 per 100,000 people, according to European CDC data.

Brexiteers accused Ursula von der Leyen of trying to ‘blackmail’ the EU yesterday as she pushed the button on the EU’s no deal plans – and urged increasingly panicky member states not to do ‘side deals’ with the UK.

But Tory MP David Jones, one of the heads of the influential Eurosceptic ERG group, said: ‘This just shows how desperate they are doesn’t it. It’s clear they are desperate to do a deal.

‘All they need to do is treat us like any other third countries they have deals with.’

The former minister added: ‘I’m pretty sure the response the Prime Minister will give is that this country does not buckle in the face of intimidation, threats and blackmail. That’s not how we do business.’

Essential travellers, such as those involved in medical supply chains, food supply, seasonal farm workers, and diplomats, will not be affected by the rule change. 

Speaking on the BBC’s Today programme, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab denied the restrictions were a direct result of Brexit, and said all countries will have to keep travel restrictions under review to deal with the virus. 

‘In terms of linking it to Brexit… I don’t think that’s right. The arrangements, whether we’ve got a free trade deal or otherwise, are that Brits can go over there for 90 days in any 180-day period,’ he said.  

‘But Covid in the rest of Europe and in the UK remains a live issue and we need to make sure we’ve got control of it and I’m afraid restrictions on travel is something that’s quite likely to be kept under review.’ 

Asked whether that would mean Britons will find it difficult to go to the European mainland, he said: ‘It all depends on the prevalence of the virus in those continental European countries.’

A earlier statement issued by a Government spokeswoman said: ‘We take a scientific, risk-based approach to health measures at the border, and it is of course in the interests of all countries to allow safe international travel as we emerge from the pandemic.’

Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy the PC Agency, said: ‘I cannot believe that EU countries who rely on the spending power of UK business and leisure travellers will seek to block entry after January 1.

‘Cool heads need to prevail at this politically difficult time as travel and tourism is such a key contributor to economic growth in Europe.

‘I’m sure that individual countries who need UK tourism will be sensible and override any EU-bloc decision which prevents entry. It is so important now for countries to work together globally to create a consistent approach.’

Guidance issued by the European Commission at the end of June said that travel should only be allowed between EU member states and countries from outside the EU which are on an exempt list.

To qualify for the exempt list, countries must have a lower infection rate than the European average on June 15, when infection rates were at rock bottom. 

Case totals must also be stable or falling, and other government responses to the pandemic including mask mandates and social distancing rules can also be taken into account.  

Currently, the list of exempt non-EU countries includes just nine nations where infection rates are much lower than in the UK.

Aside from Australia and New Zealand, the current list includes: South Korea, Japan, Rwanda, Singapore, Thailand, Uruguay and China.

Of those, Uruguay currently has the highest infection rate of 7.7 cases per 100,000 people, based on a seven-day rolling average.

By comparison, the UK has an infection rate of 24.5 per 100,000 people.

Boris Johnson is pictured in Brussels trying to secure and 11th hour Brexit deal for the UK, though after a meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (right) on Wednesday, was forced to admit that 'significant gaps' remain

Boris Johnson is pictured in Brussels trying to secure and 11th hour Brexit deal for the UK, though after a meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen (right) on Wednesday, was forced to admit that ‘significant gaps’ remain

Boris Johnson is pictured yesterday, as negotiators try to secure a Brexit deal in Brussels. But travellers could still be caught up in the EU's coronavirus restrictions, even if a deal is granted

Boris Johnson is pictured yesterday, as negotiators try to secure a Brexit deal in Brussels. But travellers could still be caught up in the EU’s coronavirus restrictions, even if a deal is granted

While it is up to EU member states which rules to apply at their own borders, governments have been loathe to depart from the commission guidance.

Twelve states apply the guidance in full, while others have gone further – banning even countries which are on the exempt list. 

Only two EU countries, Hungary and Croatia, have decided not to apply the travel ban list at all, the Financial Times reports.

Britons could be barred from EU travel over passport expiry dates 

Millions of Britons could be barred from entry to the EU in the New Year unless they renew passports.

Visas will not be needed for short tourist trips whether or not there is a Brexit trade deal, but fears have been raised that large numbers of people could still be caught out when the transition period ends on January 1.

UK passports are currently valid in the EU and other countries in the Schengen free movement zone right up until their expiry date.

However, from January they must have at least six months left to run.

This means that those whose passports expire in the summer of 2021 will be unable to travel in the spring.

People whose passports do not expire until the end of 2021 or even the start of 2022 might also be at risk of falling foul of the rules.

That is because UK passports can last up to 10 years and nine months rather than the standard 10 years – in recognition that renewal can happen when there is still time left on an old document.

The EU is set to ignore the extra nine months as well as the final six when it decides if a passport is valid.

Norway, which is not an EU member state but is part of the extended Schengen border-free zone, has also not applied the list. 

But officials in Oslo have already confirmed that Britons who do not live in the country will be banned from entry from January 1, when Brexit takes effect.

The formal end of the transition period on December 31 means Britons will face an EU regime that only allows non-essential travel from a very limited number of non-EU countries.

Most UK citizens would only be able to travel to the EU if individual states make provisions for such a move, or the bloc as a whole lessens its pandemic travel curbs. 

A spokesman for travel trade organisation Abta said: ‘The EU has sought to adopt a common approach to travel restrictions, but this is only a recommendation and individual countries are able to implement their own measures, including options like travel corridors and testing.

‘It is too early to say what restrictions might be in place on January 1 given the uncertain nature of the pandemic, but we know that UK travellers are hugely important to a number of EU destinations, including some winter sun favourites like the Canary Islands and Madeira.’

European oronavirus infection rates fell drastically over the summer, before soaring as winter approached, when respiratory illnesses tend to spread faster.

Lockdown measures put in place in most major European countries have caused those rates to drop rapidly, though not as far or as fast as during the first round of lockdowns during the spring.

Germany – widely praised for having one of the best initial virus responses – now has an infection rate on par with the UK after avoiding a full second lockdown. 

The country logged another 23,679 cases on Monday, a record one-day total for the second wave of the pandemic, bringing its overall total to 1,242,203.

Another 440 deaths were registered, bringing the overall total to 20,372.

Angela Merkel has now called for tougher measures to be taken in the run-up to Christmas, when Germany planned to relax its restrictions.

Angela Merkel is pictured arriving in Brussels for an EU summit as UK and European negotiators try to hash out a trade deal

Angela Merkel is pictured arriving in Brussels for an EU summit as UK and European negotiators try to hash out a trade deal

Lorries queue at the Channel Tunnel as disruption caused by coronavirus, uncertainty around a Brexit trade deal, and Christmas bulk-buying stretches supply networks

Lorries queue at the Channel Tunnel as disruption caused by coronavirus, uncertainty around a Brexit trade deal, and Christmas bulk-buying stretches supply networks

Merkel called for non-essential shops to be closed and social gatherings to be limited further.

The Chancellor added that schools should extend holidays until January 10 or offer online lessons until then.

Britons could be barred from EU travel over passport expiry dates 

Millions of Britons could be barred from entry to the EU in the New Year unless they renew passports.

Visas will not be needed for short tourist trips whether or not there is a Brexit trade deal, but fears have been raised that large numbers of people could still be caught out when the transition period ends on January 1.

UK passports are currently valid in the EU and other countries in the Schengen free movement zone right up until their expiry date.

However, from January they must have at least six months left to run.

This means that those whose passports expire in the summer of 2021 will be unable to travel in the spring.

People whose passports do not expire until the end of 2021 or even the start of 2022 might also be at risk of falling foul of the rules.

That is because UK passports can last up to 10 years and nine months rather than the standard 10 years – in recognition that renewal can happen when there is still time left on an old document.

The EU is set to ignore the extra nine months as well as the final six when it decides if a passport is valid.

Speaking about the Christmas break that Germans had been promised, she added that people cannot pick and choose when to listen to the science.

‘The numbers are what they are, so we must do something about them,’ she said.  

Meanwhile in France, which had one of the highest infection rates in Europe before the winter lockdown, cases have now fallen under the level seen in the UK.

Non-essential shops were allowed to reopen in November, which has caused cases to begin rising again.

A second round of easing was planned for December 15, but may not go ahead if cases remain at their current level.

Measures to be dropped on December 15 included forcing people to fill out forms to leave their homes. 

France on Thursday said it was ready to impose new checks on goods and passengers heading to Britain from next year even if there is no deal on the terms of London’s exit from the EU single market and customs union.

France’s Europe Minister Clement Beaune and Public Accounts Minister Olivier Dussopt checked on preparations at the Gare du Nord station in Paris where Eurostar trains arrive from London.

‘We are ready,’ said Beaune, whose country is seen as a major voice in pressing the EU not to offer major concessions in the post-Brexit trade deal.

‘We will obviously check until the last hour of the last day that our preparations are in place and that we are ready for this change which will occur, whatever happens, on January 1,’ he said.

‘Whatever happens, on January 1 we will be in a different world, whether or not there is an agreement with the UK,’ he added. 

Dussopt said that 600 additional customs officers had been hired, including at Gare du Nord, to deal with the situation after January 1.

‘Gare du Nord becomes an exit point from the European Union, an exit point from the internal market. Britain becomes a separate country,’ he explained.

He said in a change from the current practice, all passports will be stamped, that passports and not ID cards will now be needed to travel between France and Britain and that French customs officers will be onboard cross-Channel trains to carry out checks.

DOWN TO THE WIRE: TIMELINE OF THE BREXIT SAGA 

Boris Johnson and the European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen have agreed that a ‘firm decision’ about the future of Brexit negotiations should be made by Sunday.

As the clock ticks towards the deadline for agreement on a trade deal, here is a look at the key moments in the saga:

January 23, 2013 – Under intense pressure from many of his own MPs and with the rise of Ukip, prime minister David Cameron promises an in-out referendum on EU membership if the Conservatives win the 2015 general election.

May 7, 2015 – The Tories unexpectedly make sweeping gains over Ed Miliband’s Labour Party and secure a majority in the Commons. Mr Cameron vows to deliver his manifesto pledge of an EU referendum.

June 23, 2016 – The UK votes to leave the EU in a shock result that sees 52% of the public support Brexit and Mr Cameron quickly resigns as prime minister.

July 13, 2016 – Theresa May takes over as prime minister. Despite having backed Remain, she promises to ‘rise to the challenge’ of negotiating the UK’s exit.

November 10, 2016 – The High Court rules against the Government and says Parliament must hold a vote to trigger Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, the mechanism that begins the exit from the EU. Mrs May says the ruling will not stop her from invoking the legislation by April 2017.

March 29, 2017 – Mrs May triggers Article 50. European Council president Donald Tusk says it is not a happy occasion, telling a Brussels press conference his message to the UK is: ‘We already miss you. Thank you and goodbye.’

April 18, 2017 – Mrs May announces a snap general election to be held on June 8.

June 8, 2017 – There is humiliation for Mrs May as she loses her Commons majority after her election gamble backfires. She becomes head of a minority Conservative administration propped up by the Democratic Unionist Party.

September 22, 2017 – In a crucial Brexit speech in Florence, Mrs May sends a message to EU leaders by saying: ‘We want to be your strongest friend and partner as the EU and UK thrive side by side.’ She says she is proposing an ‘implementation period’ of ‘around two years’ after Brexit when existing market access arrangements will apply.

March 19, 2018 – The EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, says he and Brexit secretary David Davis have taken a ‘decisive step’ towards agreeing a joint legal text on the UK’s EU withdrawal but warns there are still outstanding issues relating to the Irish border.

July 6, 2018 – A crunch Cabinet meeting at Chequers agrees Mrs May’s new Brexit plans, including the creation of a new UK-EU free trade area for goods. But not all who attend are happy with the compromises.

July 8 and July 9, 2018 – Mr Davis resigns from the Government in protest while the following day Boris Johnson quits as foreign secretary, claiming the plans mean ‘we are truly headed for the status of colony’ of the EU.

November 14, 2018 – In a statement outside 10 Downing Street after a five-hour Cabinet meeting, Mrs May says that Cabinet has agreed the draft Brexit Withdrawal Agreement.

November 15, 2018 – Dominic Raab resigns as Brexit secretary, saying he ‘cannot in good conscience support the terms proposed for our deal with the EU’. Other resignations follow.

November 25, 2018 – The 27 EU leaders endorse the Brexit deal.

December 12, 2018 – Mrs May survives an attempt to oust her with a vote of no confidence as Tory MPs vote by 200 to 117 in the secret ballot in Westminster.

January 15, 2019 – MPs reject Mrs May’s Brexit plans by an emphatic 432 to 202 in an historic vote which throws the future of her administration and the nature of the UK’s EU withdrawal into doubt.

March 20, 2019 – Mrs May tells the House of Commons that she has written to Mr Tusk to request an extension to Article 50 Brexit negotiations to June 30.

March 29, 2019 – MPs reject Mrs May’s Withdrawal Agreement for a third time – by 286 votes to 344 – on the day the UK was due to leave the EU.

April 10, 2019 – The EU agrees a ‘flexible extension’ to Brexit until October 31. Mrs May says the ‘choices we now face are stark and the timetable is clear’.

May 23, 2019 – Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party comes out on top in the European elections, while the pro-EU Liberal Democrats also make gains.

May 24, 2019 – Mrs May announces she is standing down as Tory Party leader on June 7. She says: ‘It is and will always remain a matter of deep regret to me that I have not been able to deliver Brexit.’

July 23, 2019 – Mr Johnson is elected as leader of the Conservative Party and becomes the UK’s new Prime Minister after defeating Jeremy Hunt.

August 20, 2019 – The new Prime Minister is rebuffed by European Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker after demanding major changes to Irish border arrangements in a new Brexit deal.

August 28, 2019 – The Queen is dragged into the Brexit row as Mr Johnson requests the prorogation of Parliament from early September to mid-October.

September 4, 2019 – MPs vote to approve legislation aimed at preventing a no-deal Brexit. Mr Johnson orders a purge of rebel Tories who opposed the Government including former chancellors Philip Hammond and Sir Kenneth Clarke.

The Prime Minister attempts to trigger an early general election but fails to get the required support of two-thirds of MPs.

September 24, 2019 – The Supreme Court rules that the PM’s advice to the Queen to suspend Parliament until October 14 was unlawful because it had the effect of frustrating Parliament.

October 2, 2019 – Mr Johnson puts forward his formal Brexit plan to the EU, revealing his blueprint to solve the Irish border issue.

October 10, 2019 – Mr Johnson and Taoiseach Leo Varadkar say they can see a ‘pathway to a deal’, in a joint statement after key talks at a luxury hotel in Cheshire.

October 17, 2019 – After intense negotiations, the Prime Minister announces the UK has reached a ‘great deal’ with the EU which ‘takes back control’ and means that ‘the UK can come out of the EU as one United Kingdom – England, Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland, together’.

October 19, 2019 – In the first Saturday sitting of the Commons in 37 years Mr Johnson seeks the support of MPs in a ‘meaningful vote’ on his new deal but instead they back an amendment forcing him to seek a delay.

October 22, 2019 – The Prime Minister mounts an attempt to fast-track his Brexit deal through Parliament but puts the plans on ice after MPs vote against his foreshortened timetable.

October 28, 2019 – EU leaders agree to a second Brexit ‘flextension’ until January 31 unless Parliament ratifies the deal sooner.

October 29, 2019 – Mr Johnson finally succeeds at the fourth attempt in winning Commons support for a general election on December 12.

December 12, 2019 – Having campaigned on a promise to ‘get Brexit done’, Mr Johnson secures a landslide win at the election and with an 80-seat majority.

January 8, 2020 – New European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen visits No 10 to warn Mr Johnson the timetable for a post-Brexit trade deal is ‘very, very tight’. The Prime Minister is clear however there will be no extension to the transition period, which expires at the end of 2020.

January 9, 2020 – Mr Johnson gets his Brexit deal through the Commons as the European Union (Withdrawal Agreement) Bill is given a third reading with a majority of 99.

January 31, 2020 – A clock projected on the walls of Downing Street counts down the moments to the UK’s departure from the EU at 11pm.

March 2, 2020 – Mr Barnier and Mr Johnson’s chief EU adviser David Frost open formal talks in Brussels on Britain’s future relationship with the bloc, including a free trade agreement.

March 12, 2020 – The two sides announce they are suspending face-to-face talks due to the coronavirus pandemic and will explore the options for continuing the negotiations by video conferencing.

June 12, 2020 – Cabinet office minister Michael Gove formally tells the EU the UK will not sign up to an extension to the transition period, but he backtracks on plans to immediately introduce full border checks with the bloc on January 1.

September 10, 2020 – The European Commission threatens the UK with legal action after ministers announce plans for legislation enabling them to override provisions in the Withdrawal Agreement relating to Northern Ireland in breach of international law.

October 16, 2020 – Mr Johnson says he is halting talks on a trade deal accusing EU leaders meeting for a summit in Brussels of seeking to impose ‘unacceptable’ demands.

November 7, 2020 – Mr Johnson and Mrs von der Leyen agree to ‘redouble’ their efforts to get a deal while acknowledging that significant differences remain over fisheries and the so-called ‘level playing field’ for state aid rules.

December 4, 2020 – Lord Frost and Mr Barnier announce in a joint statement the conditions for an agreement had still not been met and negotiations will be put on ‘pause’ to allow political leaders to take stock, with Mr Johnson and Mrs Von der Leyen to engage in emergency talks.

December 9, 2020 – Mr Johnson and Mrs Von der Leyen dine at the European Commission, with talks between the two leaders lasting around three hours.

After the meeting, a senior Downing Street source says the pair had a ‘frank discussion’ and that ‘very large gaps remain between the two sides and it is still unclear whether these can be bridged’.

The leaders agreed there would be further discussions between the negotiating teams, but that a ‘firm decision’ should be taken about the future of the talks by Sunday.

 

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