Wednesday 16 June 2021 3:22 pm

Government traffic light travel policy attacked from all sides

Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has stepped up his attacks on the government’s traffic light system, calling for more stringent travel restrictions and an end to the amber list.

The government is also facing attacks on its border policy from right-wingers and moderates alike in the Tory party who want to see more lax travel restrictions.

Starmer called on Boris Johnson at Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) to “do everything possible to save the British summer” by “securing the border”, after the Delta variant came into the UK while India was not on the red list.

There are only a handful of countries on the green list, which allows people to come into the country without quarantining.

The vast majority of countries are on the amber list, which requires people to isolate for 10 days in their homes on arrival in the UK, however the government is advising people not to visit these destinations.

“He’s persisting with a traffic light system that doesn’t work and won’t stop other variants coming in,” Starmer said.

“Drop the traffic light system, get rid of the amber list, secure the border and do everything possible to save the British summer.”

The Prime Minister said at PMQs that the UK has some of the toughest border restrictions in the world.

Referring to Starmer, Johnson added “if he is now saying he wants to stop all travel to and from this country, it is yet another flip-flop from the Labour leader”. 

It comes as Ryanair today slammed Johnson’s “mismanagement of the Covid pandemic, and the reopening of the UK economy”, while calling for vaccinated Britons to be able to travel freely to the EU.

Tory MPs like Mark Harper and former Prime Minister Theresa May have also called for vaccinated Britons to be able to travel without quarantining on their return.

Ryanair chief executive Michael O’Leary said: “UK tourism and aviation needs a pragmatic travel policy, which permits vaccinated UK and EU citizens to travel between the UK and the EU without the need for quarantine or negative PCR tests.

“This will at least allow the UK tourism industry to plan for what is left of the summer season and get hundreds of thousands of people back to work.”

By contrast, the EU today voted to add a raft of new countries to its “white list”, which means that travellers from those countries can move around the bloc free from all restrictions, regardless of their vaccination status.

Most significantly, the US was added to the list, along with Albania, Lebanon, North Macedonia, Serbia and Taiwan. They join Australia, Israel, Japan, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and China on the list, which is updated every two weeks.

However, until the US drops reciprocal restrictions against EU countries, a full return of transatlantic travel will not come about.

The UK’s traffic light system will be next updated on 28 June.