French Transport Minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said last month’s UK decision, which requires travelers from France to self-isolate for up to 10 days and pass two tests, is based on questionable science and urged the government to turn the tide quickly.
The dispute comes as relations between the United Kingdom and the European Union remain difficult. The UK last month demanded a renegotiation of the Brexit deal governing Northern Ireland, which the bloc refused. Conflicts have also arisen with France over how to deal with migrants and fishing rights.
“Hopefully this week, in their weekly review, there will be a positive change,” Djebbari told CNews television channel on Monday, referring to a possible assessment of UK rules on Thursday. Djebbari said he chats with his British counterpart Grant Shapps every week.
In a separate interview with CNews, the young French Minister for European Affairs, Clément Beaune, said the British restrictions were “a bit political”, regrettable and discriminatory.
French anger stems from Britain’s decision to treat France differently from other Amber List countries in its travel rules traffic light system. As of Monday, fully vaccinated Britons, Americans and EU arrivals from Amber List countries are exempt from isolation requirements, except those from France, due to concern UK regarding the prevalence of the beta variant of the virus there.
In the four weeks ended July 13, France recorded 29 cases of the beta variant, representing 0.8% of known infections, according to data compiled by Gisaid, which tracks Covid mutations.
In an interview with a local newspaper on Sunday, French Tourism Minister Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne said he regretted the absence of British holidaymakers during the summer as the French tourism industry is only recovering from months of worldwide travel restrictions. France expects around 50 million foreign visitors this year, more than last year but still below the 90 million in 2019, said the minister.
In the UK system, people entering the UK from Green List countries must take a Covid-19 test before they arrive and take another two days later, but do not have to self-isolate.
A green watchlist is also in place to flag countries likely to switch to orange color. Those coming from Amber List countries must self-quarantine at home for 10 days if they are not fully vaccinated, as well as take Covid tests. People entering from Red List countries must self-quarantine at their own expense in government-sanctioned hotels.
UK government Matt Warman defended the travel rules on Sky News on Monday, saying they allowed people to make “informed decisions” about where to go on vacation.
The pressure to stop the ever-changing rules is also coming from the UK’s airline industry, which has been battered by the Covid-19 pandemic and says the lack of clarity is undermining confidence in Britons who are considering summer vacation in Europe.
Airlines UK, an industry group that represents airlines including British Airways, Ryanair Holdings Plc and EasyJet Plc, on Sunday said in a letter to the country’s Transport Secretary it was “increasingly concerned that the UK is not on track for a sustainable aviation recovery, due to continued restrictions on international travel.
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