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Airlines have pinned their hopes on tourist destinations breaking ranks over EU post-Brexit entry rules as British holidaymakers could face bans from 1 January under Covid-19 measures.
Travel industry bodies called for urgent clarity over whether the UK would retain special treatment in regards to coronavirus restrictions.
Under EU commission guidelines, non-essential travel to the EU and European Economic Area states is permitted only for citizens of a few exempt countries, such as Australia and New Zealand, where incidence of coronavirus is far lower, and for citizens of the UK until the end of the Brexit transition period.
The World Travel and Tourism Council’s president, Gloria Guevara, said there were “compelling reasons” why the UK should be added to the EU’s exemption list to enable international travel to continue, including “relatively low Covid transmission compared with parts of Europe”.
She said: “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.”
Airlines said they remained confident that individual EU member states would exercise their right to allow British visitors “non-essential” travel, adding the UK to the list of exempt countries.
EasyJet, which had spoken of a surge of bookings after news of a vaccine was announced, said there was no blanket law to require individual states to limit entry from those outside the EU. A spokeswoman said: “Just as they do today, we expect individual European countries to continue to apply their own rules.”
In practice, non-essential travel abroad is already deterred, if not prohibited, by Foreign Office advice that invalidates insurance, as well as by lockdown rules in the rest of Europe. Advance bookings for many travel firms for 2021 are largely rolled-over 2020 cancellations, or have Covid guarantees allowing rebooking should restrictions apply.
British Airways and Ryanair declined to comment, but a spokesman for Airlines UK said: “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.”
A spokesperson for the travel association Abta said: “It is too early to say what restrictions might be in place on 1 January, 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 the Canary Islands and Madeira.”
However, the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, acknowledged that travel could be disrupted. “Covid restrictions will depend on the combination of what the EU decides, but also member states. I’m afraid restriction on travel, inevitably, is going to be something that is kept under review,” he said.
The UK does not bar visitors from abroad but most have to quarantine for 14 days unless arriving from an exempt “travel corridor” country.
Meanwhile, unions urged the government to respond quickly to EU contingency proposals to ensure air travel could continue between Britain and the rest of Europe for another six months in the event of a no-deal Brexit, and to prolong regulatory rules recognising British safety certificates to avoid grounding aircraft.
A Department for Transport spokesperson said: “The UK and EU have a mutual interest in maintaining vital connectivity. We have always been clear that we want to ensure customers can continue to fly regardless of the outcome of negotiations. We are reviewing the detail of the EU’s regulations.”
The Prospect union, which represents many aviation workers, urged the government to reach an agreement. Its general secretary, Mike Clancy, said: “With the UK aviation industry on its knees because of the pandemic, it would be reckless to fail to strike an agreement that allows basic continuity of service with the EU. We simply cannot risk our fragile economic recovery and tens of thousands of jobs because of the relentless pursuit of a narrow view of sovereignty.”
Source: The Guardian
Keyword: Airlines hope EU bloc countries will exempt UK from travel ban | Travel & leisure