Chancellor Rishi Sunak is calling for the urgent easing of travel restrictions as Government ministers prepare to introduce changes to the UK traffic light system on Thursday.
Mr Sunak has written to the Prime Minister Boris Johnson warning that the UK’s travel restrictions are ‘out of step with our international competitors’, according to The Sunday Times.
It’s being seen as a positive indicator for the travel industry, especially since Tory MP Huw Merriman told last month’s AITO General Meeting that the Chancellor’s backing was the key to opening up travel.
In his letter to the PM, the Chancellor warned current restrictions were having a damaging effect on jobs, and he also voiced concern about the tourism and hospitality sectors.
Also, a number of backbench Conservative MPs are understood to be opposed to the Government’s plan to introduce an amber watchlist, which would warn travellers of destinations that are likely to face tougher restrictions.
Countries tipped to be added to the watchlist when the Government updates its traffic light system this week include Spain, Greece and possibly Italy.
However, it is believed that the quarantine requirement for all arrivals from France, including fully vaccinated travellers, will be removed.
All these details have yet to be confirmed.
Mr Merriman, who chairs the Transport Select Committee, told The Times the proposal for an amber watchlist was a ‘giant red flag’ that would cause bookings to collapse.
“The Government has used the vaccine dividend to make some positive strides in the last few weeks, making it easier for those travelling in and out of the UK. This is not the time to be adding further complexity, uncertainty and anxiety to an already beleaguered sector,” he said.
Theresa Villiers, the former Environment Secretary, said: “The travel sector desperately needs some stability. Getting travel back to more normal levels would give a great boost to the economy. Real progress has been made. Let’s not start to reverse that.”
Henry Smith, Chair of the all-party Future of Aviation Group, said: “We support the traffic light system of red, amber and green. However, the way it is being implemented is very confusing, complex and is in many cases detrimental to that safe reopening. It’s more of a rainbow now.”