Travel from the UK to the European mainland could be disrupted as a result of coronavirus restrictions once the Brexit transition period ends, the foreign secretary has said.
The UK will no longer be part of the European Union’s free movement rules after 1 January.
Just a small number of countries with low COVID-19 rates are exempt from rules that bar non-essential visitors from outside the EU and European Economic Area (EEA).
These include Australia, New Zealand and South Korea – but an EU Commission spokesman last week said there were no plans to extend that to the UK. “This is a decision for the council (European Council) to make,” he said.
Questioned on the report in the Financial Times, Dominic Raab told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme on Thursday: “COVID restrictions will depend on the combination of what the EU decides, but also member states.
“We have already got challenges with that and we have put our own restrictions in place.”
He acknowledged that coronavirus “remains a live issue and we need to make sure we have got control of it”.
“I’m afraid restriction on travel, inevitably, is going to be something that is kept under review.”
Asked whether that would mean Britons will find it difficult to go to the European mainland, he said: “It all depends on the prevalence of the virus in those continental European countries.”
A statement issued earlier by a government spokeswoman said: “We take a scientific, risk-based approach to health measures at the border, and it is of course in the interests of all countries to allow safe international travel as we emerge from the pandemic.”
Paul Charles, chief executive of travel consultancy the PC Agency, said: “I cannot believe that EU countries who rely on the spending power of UK business and leisure travellers will seek to block entry after 1 January.
“Cool heads need to prevail at this politically difficult time as travel and tourism is such a key contributor to economic growth in Europe.
“I’m sure that individual countries who need UK tourism will be sensible and override any EU-bloc decision which prevents entry. It is so important now for countries to work together globally to create a consistent approach.”
It comes amid months of deadlock in Brexit trade deal talks with both the EU and the UK failing to reach an agreement.
After a three-hour dinner on Wednesday night, Prime Minister Boris Johnson and European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen agreed negotiations remain “very difficult” and there are still “major differences between the two sides”.
However, a deadline has been set for Sunday, which Mr Raab told Sky News will be a “point of finality” if the EU does not “move substantially” in negotiations.