The Government has dropped plans for yet another traffic light category as it came under renewed pressure to be more transparent over how decisions are reached over foreign travel.
Whitehall sources confirmed that a new amber watchlist – countries which are close to tipping into red – will no longer be introduced following a backlash from the industry, members of the Cabinet and Tory backbenchers.
But the u-turn didn’t stop industry leaders from lambasting Downing Street for abandoning travel and leaving it ‘to rot’.
The change in heart over the amber watchlist followed warnings from Chancellor Rishi Sunak told Prime Minister Boris Johnson that the UK’s approach to travel restrictions was ‘out of step with international competitors’ and risked further damaging the travel and tourism sector.
The PM yesterday appeared to row back from an amber watchlist after saying he wanted a simplified traffic light system. Government sources confirmed overnight that the plan had been abandoned.
Sources quoted in the Guardian said: “The watchlist could have warned people that the country they were going to [might] turn red and given them the full information but the backlash is so big that we have lost that position. But there’s not a chance it will go ahead now.”
While the move to drop an amber watchlist may be welcomed by the industry, the possibility remains for an amber list country to go straight into red, with little or no warning.
Spain, Greece and Italy were among the destinations that may have appeared in a new category. Transport Minister Grant Shapps is due to provide an update later this week on any changes to the green, amber and red lists.
The scrapping of the amber watchlist did little to appease industry leaders.
Responding to claims in the Daily Telegraph that Boris Johnson has stepped in to ‘save holidays’, Advantage Travel Partnership Chief Executive Julia Lo Bue-Said tweeted: “If the PM really wants to save holidays he needs to remove onerous tests including pre-departure for vaccinated. Green needs to be expanded and the constant contempt shown to the travel industry recognised.
“Confidence remains at al all time low despite success of vaccines.”
She added: “What is it with ‘Holidays Saved’ headlines? The PM has scrapped the idea of an amber watchlist that wasn’t introduced. That hardly constitutes saving the summer.”
Later, commenting on a story of an agent who saw her business die, Lo Bue-Said tweeted: “This is a stark reminder of world class outbound travel forgotten, left to rot by the government…..businesses left decimated, people left ruined. Shame on you No 10.”
Meanwhile, Labour today renewed calls for the government to publish data on how traffic light decisions are reached after branding it ‘total chaos’.
Shadow Transport Secretary Jim McMahon told Sky News: “Not only have ministers failed to protect our borders, allowing the Delta variant to reach the UK in such force, but time and time again they’ve refused to be straight with the public and industry to provide them with the information they need to build confidence, with clear information on the direction of travel of infections in each country.”