Travel is now a Confusing, Political Mess – Conservative Article
As it stands right now, international travel is severely disrupted. Perhaps that is putting it mildly. There are countries that have only been recently added to the travel list that should have been there weeks ago; lawsuits being filed, and of course, there is the EU still being petty over our vaccination programme. These impacts have a massive impact on British holidaymakers. It will disrupt our tourism industries here as well.
It is important then to look at each of these problems in turn. Firstly, is that countries, such as Ibiza and Majorca, should have been on the list to start with, as both islands had low COVID cases. However, they weren’t. But countries such as India were on the amber list for too long. Admittedly, moving India to the red list wouldn’t have prevented the spread of the Delta variant. This highlights some of the inconsistencies with the list. This inconsistency is proven even more when we compare our travel lists to other countries, such as Germany. They have several European countries on their green list except for the UK (this is a completely separate issue), their amber list is not as strict as ours, and they opened up internationally to countries like Majorca substantially quicker than the UK, allowing their citizens to get away on a break.
While these inconsistencies have since been rectified on the UK travel list, they should not have been there in the first place. When looking at vaccination rates, the UK has been consistently praised for its strong delivery. It is this that allows for the relaxation of restrictions to return to normality. However, international travel has been an exception to this. The government has been extremely cautious. And for little reason. We were told that because of our excellent speed in vaccinations, we could return to normality faster than those in Europe, though this is clearly not the case. This was not lost on the European media, which to be honest is quite embarrassing. A German paper touted that this was a “twist in the towel war”, as German citizens were allowed to travel to Majorca without cumbersome travel restrictions.
However, the rest of the EU is adding their own complications to our travel restrictions. As many people will be disappointed about not being able to travel to Europe for an easy summer holiday – because countries like France and Germany are on our amber list – they will be infuriated to find out that this is because of the EU’s inconsistency, not Johnson’s.
German leader Angela Merkel has called for an EU wide travel ban on the UK, over fears of the Delta variant. Other leaders are bending the knee to this ludicrous suggestion. Vaccines work extremely strongly against the Delta variant and the UK has nearly vaccinated its adult population (still ahead of the EU I might add). The EU is ignoring the science on vaccinations, instead letting petty politics rule their decision. They are clearly still upset over our superior vaccine programme and have decided to take their anger for their failure on British tourists. But, as previously mentioned, the EU has laxer travel restrictions than the UK, thus making it possible for the variant to enter through other ways.
Furthermore, the Delta variant is in the EU already. Portugal, one of the countries now backing a unified EU position on blocking UK tourists, has a high count of Delta cases. The variant now accounts for 70% of their sequenced cases in Lisbon and the surrounding area. The variant can also be found in countries like Italy and Belgium too. And, with the relaxation for rules about travelling in Schengen (admittedly only for the fully vaccinated), no doubt the variant will increase its hold on the continent, without the UK contributing. But no. Britain is a dangerous country to travel to for and to accept travellers from, according to the EU. Portugal’s decision in this is surprising, as a few weeks ago the country was willing to welcome UK travellers, and nothing significant has changed since then.
This shows the hypocrisy of the EU; on the one hand, we are mocked for being too tight with our own restrictions, but at the same time we are barred from entering.
A final point that is worth expanding on is that our traffic light system needs serious improvements. The government needs to be clearer on why certain countries are moved to harsher sections in its reviews. It is impossible for people to plan around it. This is highlighted by the airline company Ryanair, as they have launched a lawsuit against the UK government in order to force them to be more transparent about why countries are placed where they are. Other airline companies have expressed confusion as well over the placement of countries. No doubt UK holidaymakers are confused on what they can do too. This is frustrating, as in order to save the summer the restrictions need to be clear, communicated transparently, and politics needs to remove itself from the situation. As it stands right now, however, travel restrictions are a mess.
Written by Senior Conservative Writer, Kieran Burt
Point of Information
A Nuanced Mess – A Liberal Response
Kieran is right to note how messy travelling within Europe has become nowadays. The chaos and uncertainty around the restrictions will be a blight on our COVID response. The new colour-coded travel system will be as mocked as our failed tier system.
Yet, this is not the EU’s fault alone. As with almost all conflicts, no single side is unilaterally to blame. It takes two to tango. True, Merkel’s response is harsh, extreme, and arguably unjustified. Yet, it exists in the wake of tensions stoked on both sides of the Channel after Brexit. Scapegoating the EU is rhetorically easy, but it will not help us to reach solutions.
There are some nuances that need to be flattened out. Kieran wrongly – although cleverly – substitutes the EU for Merkel. In fact, almost none of the EU agrees with her.
Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Portugal and Malta are a few of the countries actively resisting this outright ban on British tourists. And it hasn’t even happened yet. Boris and Merkel are finally engaging in talks to lessen this draconian plan. I hope, with Kieran, that it is struck down.
The current restrictions vary by each country as well. For the most part, it is done on a vaccination basis, such as in Portugal. Most countries in the EU are following suit.
The efficacy of our vaccines in reducing COVID’s transmission is also worth mentioning when discussing restrictions. In the very article which Kieran links to prove the strength of vaccines against the Delta variant, a striking difference exists. Whilst Pfizer, the predominant vaccine within the EU, is 88% effective in combating the Delta variant, Astra-Zeneca pales in comparison with only 60% efficacy. Given our population’s reliance so far on the Astra-Zeneca vaccine, there may be some (misplaced) cause for concern whilst the EU continues its vaccination programme.
I should reiterate, I do not in the slightest agree with Merkel’s ban on all British tourists regardless of their vaccination status. A quarantine period, graded on vaccine and dose number, would be more reasonable.
Instead, what I’ve attempted to highlight is the nuance that surrounds the EU’s dicey approach to travel laws. Merkel’s outright ban, whilst rash and unnecessary, is an attempt to unify these restrictions into a single code. The EU is not simply raging against our vaccination program. Despite their initial stumble, the EU is catching up very quickly. With their inoculation rates now surpassing Britain’s, both the EU and Britain would benefit from rational discussions around restrictions that allow for some vaccine flexibility.
Written by Chief Liberal Writer, Frank Allen
Chaos and Confusion Calls for Cooperation about Travel – A Labour Response
Kieran’s final statement is completely true – travel restrictions are a mess. There is growing confusion around almost every aspect of travelling abroad. Why? Because of the inconsistencies.
Kieran is completely right to mention the flaws of the traffic light system. This seems to be the UK government’s go-to solution even outside of travel and yet has failed rather impressively on many occasions. I agree that a more comprehensive and accessible list of criteria for each section is desirable. Why? It would alleviate some confusion and allow for greater planning for both tourists and the larger companies involved. And that in itself is an important note to make – the lack of clarity on travel restrictions affects more than just your average holidaymaker. You also have airline companies, package holiday companies and independent travel agents. The latter being just another example of the government’s neglect towards independent businesses over the past year and a half.
I think it’s clear then that there are obvious problems with the UK government’s approach to travel. And I’m sure Kieran’s convinced you of the corresponding problems of Europe’s approach. While I, personally, can understand the unwillingness to let Brits holiday in some countries, for reasons of safety, I empathise with the frustrations of this and the apparent hypocrisy in many cases. Both sides need to cooperate to create realistic strategies that can uphold until COVID is no longer with us and the threat to life is diminished.
One final question – is international travel a smart move right now? I’m sure we’ve all seen our favourite influencers catching the first flight they can to a villa in the sun. But we can’t forget that COVID is still very much with us and the threat does still exist. I understand everyone is comfortable with a different level of risk right now and priorities lie in different places, but I won’t be booking a holiday anywhere any time soon. Maybe I would think differently if the restrictions were less chaotic.
Written by Chief Labour Writer, Abi Clargo