UK

Boris Johnson in holiday showdown with Angela Merkel

Boris Johnson will attempt to persuade Angela Merkel to allow British tourists to visit EU countries this summer, as uncertainty over foreign trips continues. 

The Prime Minister will meet the German chancellor at Chequers on Friday to discuss her hopes to introduce an EU-wide quarantine policy to protect against the ‘Delta’ variant which has taken hold in the UK.

She has been met with various levels of support, with French President Emmanuel Macron backing her plans – while Madrid is adamant that it will set its own border policy.    

Further disputes have emerged elsewhere in the EU over summer holidays, with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis insisting Germany and France should instead bolster their vaccination efforts. 

He said EU member states should be ‘accelerating the vaccinations’ rather than imposing further restrictions on British tourists.

People not wearing face masks walk near an outdoor restaurant in downtown Lisbon, Portugal

Boris Johnson will attempt to persuade Angela Merkel (seen together at the G7 summit in Cornwall) to allow British tourists to visit EU countries this summer, as uncertainty over foreign trips continues

Boris Johnson will attempt to persuade Angela Merkel (seen together at the G7 summit in Cornwall) to allow British tourists to visit EU countries this summer, as uncertainty over foreign trips continues

Spain’s tourism minister, Maria Reyes Maroto, also hinted at a split within the bloc on Mrs Merkel’s proposals, saying: ‘Hopefully we can begin to receive British tourists soon.

‘We don’t have any restrictions on tourists from the UK at the moment. They’re placing restrictions on people when they return.’

This EU infighting could threaten the long-awaited return of summer holidays for millions of eager Britons, after the Balearic Islands, Madeira and Malta were among the destinations added to the UK’s ‘green list’ on Thursday.  

Travel firms have since reported an explosion in demand for these holiday hotspots, with airlines scrambling to lay on dozens of extra flights and larger planes to meet demand.

Visitors and tourists are seen walking in the city downtown wearing face masks in Lisbon, Portugal on Friday

Visitors and tourists are seen walking in the city downtown wearing face masks in Lisbon, Portugal on Friday

Further disputes have emerged elsewhere in the EU over summer holidays, with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis insisting Germany and France instead bolster their vaccination efforts

Further disputes have emerged elsewhere in the EU over summer holidays, with Greek PM Kyriakos Mitsotakis insisting Germany and France instead bolster their vaccination efforts

Bookings for Ibiza, Majorca and Menorca surged 3,000 per cent following the announcement, with demand for Malta and Madeira up by almost 1,500 per cent.

A total of 16 nations were added to the ‘green list’, with all but one – Malta – also placed on a ‘watch list’, meaning they are at risk of returning to the ‘amber’ category. 

From June 30, holidaymakers will be able to return from these ‘green list’ countries without being forced into quarantine for 10 days when arriving back in the UK. 

Grant Shapps, the Transport Secretary, yesterday criticised Mrs Merkel over her quarantine plans and suggested it was due to the bloc’s blow vaccine rollout.  

He said he understood why Germany might be ‘particularly concerned’ about the ‘Delta’ variant because it ‘doesn’t have the same level of vaccinations as has happened in this country’. 

Merkel  has been met with various levels of support, with French President Emmanuel Macron backing her plans - while Madrid is adamant that it will set its own border policy

Merkel  has been met with various levels of support, with French President Emmanuel Macron backing her plans – while Madrid is adamant that it will set its own border policy

Pictured: Pretty Bay at Birzebbuga, Malta - which was been added to the 'green list'

Pictured: Pretty Bay at Birzebbuga, Malta – which was been added to the ‘green list’

The Balearic islands - Mallorca, Ibiza and Menorca - along with Madeira, Grenada, Barbados (pictured), and Bermuda have all been downgraded from 'amber' to 'green'

The Balearic islands – Mallorca, Ibiza and Menorca – along with Madeira, Grenada, Barbados (pictured), and Bermuda have all been downgraded from ‘amber’ to ‘green’

Speaking to BBC Breakfast, Mr Shapps added: ‘I think it is understandable if you are in Germany.. and you have yet to reach the level of vaccination that we have seen here or in Malta, that you’re going to be more concerned. 

‘That may be just a question of waiting for their vaccination programme.’

The Transport Secretary also insisted he doesn’t believe there will be an EU-wide policy, telling Times Radio: ‘Malta clearly is not going to restrict British travellers because Malta has very high vaccination rates.’

IN FULL: The UK’s new travel green list 

All changes will come into effect from Wednesday, June 30 at 4am:

  • Anguila
  • Antigua and Barbuda 
  • Australia
  • Balearic Islands
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • British Antarctic Territory
  • British Indian Ocean Territory
  • British Virgin Islands
  • Brunei
  • Cayman Islands
  • Dominica 
  • Falkland Islands
  • Faroe Islands
  • Gibraltar
  • Grenada 
  • Iceland
  • Israel and Jerusalem – to be moved to the Green Watch List
  • Madeira
  • Malta
  • Montserrat 
  • New Zealand
  • Pitcairn Islands 
  • South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
  • Saint Helena, Ascension and Tristan da Cunha
  • Singapore
  • Turks and Caicos Islands  

The UK Government will move the following countries to the red list from June 30:

  • Dominican Republic 
  • Eritrea
  • Haiti
  • Mongolia
  • Tunisia
  • Uganda 

Malta later announced plans to reimpose quarantine rules on unvaccinated Britons from Wednesday.

Downing Street yesterday announced that Mrs Merkel, who is due to step down as Chancellor this year, will visit the UK for talks with Mr Johnson at Chequers on July 2. 

A Number 10 spokesman said: ‘This will be a chance to discuss a range of issues, including deepening the UK-Germany relationship and the global response to the coronavirus pandemic.’   

Mrs Merkel’s quarantine plans risk scuppering the Government’s proposals to lift self-isolation requirements for double-jabbed Brits returning from amber list countries.  

Much of Europe is on the ‘amber list’ and UK holidaymakers are unlikely to book a trip to the Continent if they face a lengthy stay in self-isolation upon their arrival.

The exact date for the easing of the ‘amber list’ rules for people who are fully vaccinated is yet to be set but August appears likely. 

Told that Mrs Merkel wants all EU member states to impose quarantine rules on British travellers, Mr Shapps told Sky News: ‘I understand that. Germany doesn’t have the same level of vaccinations as has happened in this country so they will be particularly concerned.

‘Each country will have to come to their own decision. A country like Malta which has a very high level of vaccination hasn’t said the same thing and other European countries will come to their own decisions and I respect that, that is for them to do.

‘But it is different in each country and largely driven by levels of vaccination that they have managed to achieve in each country.’

Mrs Merkel said yesterday: ‘We have not yet managed to ensure that all 27 member states have the same entry requirements for people arriving from virus variant areas, in this case Great Britain, but in other countries also.

‘With us you have to be in quarantine when you come from the UK. This is by no means the case in every European country. But I would like that.’  

Macron has signalled his support for Mrs Merkel’s proposals.

He said: ‘We must all be vigilant because the much-talked-about Delta variant is coming, which spreads much more rapidly than the other variants and affects people who are not vaccinated or who only have had one dose.

‘For me, one of the issues of discussion is to be really taking co-ordinated decisions in terms of opening of borders to third countries and on recognising vaccines because at this stage we have to limit this to the vaccines that have been approved by the European medical authority.’   

Mallorca (pictured: Beach El Arenal) is one of the top holiday hotspots to be put on the UK's green travel list on Thursday by Grant Shapps

Mallorca (pictured: Beach El Arenal) is one of the top holiday hotspots to be put on the UK’s green travel list on Thursday by Grant Shapps

Jet2 announces 70 extra flights to Malta and Madeira after green list announcement 

British package holiday firm Jet2.com and Jet2holidays have announced plans to put on 70 additional flights to Malta and Madeira in anticipation for a huge spike in demand in the wake of the Government’s latest travel announcement.

Bosses of the holiday firm say the move will result in ‘thousands of extra seats on sale in July and August’.

The plans also include adding a new route to Malta from London Stansted for Summer 21.

Steve Heapy, CEO of Jet2.com and Jet2holidays said: ‘We have been urging the UK Government to stay true to their word and follow the scientific evidence when it comes to making decisions about international travel, so today’s announcement is an overdue but welcome step in the right direction. 

‘We believe other destinations should still be added to the Green List, however what this demonstrates is that the Government is firmly committed to reopening international travel and we commend that approach.

‘This is fantastic news for our customers who want nothing more than to get away for a much-needed holiday.

‘Now that we have some clarity about where we can fly to, our focus is on getting everything ready for the restart of our international flights and holidays from July 1.’ 

In relation to Turkey, a popular holiday destination that remains on the UK’s red, Jet2 said it plans to restart flights from July 22 – a decision taken before today’s announcement.

And on the amber list announcement, Mr Heapy said: ‘We welcome recent news reports about vaccinated people being able to travel to Amber List destinations without having to quarantine and we look forward to further updates on this. 

‘The vaccination programme has been a huge success, so it is time for us all to enjoy the benefits of that.’

Jose Ramon Bauza, the former president of the Balearic Islands, which are being added to the green list from next week, said decisions on border rules must be ‘based on science’ and should not be ‘political’. 

Asked if he believes Spain will have to agree to a harmonised approach to quarantine rules if that is what is decided by the EU, he said: ‘We know that vaccination is working very well and in fact in (the) UK it’s working so far.’ 

But French MEP Veronique Trillet-Lenoir said there should be a ‘harmonised’ approach to travel rules across the European Union and ‘third countries’ such as the UK.

She told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: ‘The European Union is concerned by the Delta variant and wants to act in a united and co-ordinated manner as much as possible.’

She said discussions are ongoing over decisions regarding ‘third countries’ such as the UK.

‘Clearly Germany, France and Portugal have already said that they needed a quarantine; what I really would like is a harmonised and co-ordinated manner, although I understand that the vision is not the same for southern and northern countries in Europe,’ she added.

The EU infighting comes as eager British holidaymakers yesterday rushed to book trips abroad following the expansion of the quarantine-free ‘green list.’    

Travel firms reported an explosion in demand for destinations including the Balearic Islands, Malta, Madeira and some Caribbean countries. 

Package holiday giant Jet2 has laid on an extra 70 flights to Malta and Madeira following soaring demand, including a new route between Stansted and Malta. 

Jet2 chief Steve Heapy said: ‘We knew there was a lot of pent-up demand out there but the response from our customers has been truly incredible.

‘Bookings to Majorca, Menorca, Ibiza, Malta and Madeira have gone through the roof, which shows just how much UK holidaymakers want to get away.’

BA is scrambling larger Airbus A320 and A321 planes to replace smaller A319s to deal with demand on some of the busiest routes. 

EasyJet said it was laying on 50,000 more seats on planes destined for green list destinations over the next few months.

Ryanair announced an extra 200,000 seats for flights to Malta, Ibiza and Majorca in July, August and September. It also triggered a price war by offering tickets from as little as £19.99.

Travel chiefs said however that more countries should have been put on the green list. 

And they criticised the creation of a watchlist which means destinations can return to amber at very short notice, as with Portugal earlier this month.


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