British holidaymakers may be banned from traveling to their preferred EU destinations from January 1 due to the Covid-19 restrictions.
The move, which also affects business travel, will end the free travel agreement between the UK and countries within the EU’s border-free travel zone – and could cut holiday visits to places like Spain and Greece.
Britons will only be able to travel to EU destinations if it relaxes rules designed to prevent the spread of Covid-19 or if separate deals are made with individual countries. Otherwise, Boris Johnson will have to close a last-minute deal before the Brexit transition period in the UK ends.
Non-essential travel from non-EU countries is only permitted from countries with a low coronavirus infection rate, such as Australia and New Zealand.
Officials have said there are no plans to add the UK to the list of safe countries, despite the UK having lower infection rates than 18 of the 27 EU member states.
Norway – which is part of the EU-Schengen border-free zone – has already indicated that it will prevent British citizens who do not live in the country from 1 January.
Visitors from the UK would still be allowed to enter EU countries after December 31 under exemption rules for diplomats, “compelling family reasons” and some “highly qualified third country workers”.
European citizens living in the UK and expats living in EU countries will still be admitted to Britain, the government has confirmed.
The Foreign office currently recommends all non-essential travel to many European destinations, with the exception of some holiday resorts. However, passengers are required to be quarantined upon return to the UK.
A UK government spokesman said, “We cannot comment on decisions that could be made by other states on public health issues.”
Paul Charles, CEO of travel consultancy PC Agency, said: “I cannot believe that EU countries that rely on the purchasing power of British business and leisure travelers will try to block access after January 1.
“Cool minds must triumph in this politically difficult time, as travel and tourism make such an important contribution to economic growth in Europe.
“I am sure that individual countries in need of tourism in the UK will be wise and set aside any decision by the EU bloc that prevents entry. It is now so important that countries worldwide work together to create a consistent approach. “
This is how a country qualifies for EU travel exemptions
Countries must have had a lower infection rate than the European average on June 15, when the infection rate was lowest.
The cases also need to be stable or fall, and other government responses to the pandemic are also taken into account, including mask mandates and social distance rules.
These are existing exempt countries
Apart from Australia and New Zealand, the current list includes: South Korea, Japan, Rwanda, Singapore, Thailand, Uruguay, and China.