Amber ‘watch list’ travel plans axed following Tory revolt


Plans to introduce an amber watch list have been axed by the Government (Picture: EPA/AP)

Proposals to create an ‘amber watch list’ as part of the Government’s Covid travel rules have been abandoned following a fierce backlash.

Ministers had planned to create the new category for countries at risk of being moved into the red list under the Government’s risk-based traffic light system.

The new sub category was tipped to include popular tourist destinations such as Spain and Italy, which would be at risk of joining the red list at short notice and forcing travellers into costly quarantine hotels.

But following a revolt from Tory backbenchers, Labour, and complaints from travel bosses that the list would cause more passenger chaos, Government sources confirmed the list will be axed.

Boris Johnson was forced into yet another U-turn after it is understood that Chancellor Rishi Sunak, Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, and international trade minister Liz Truss, were some of the key Cabinet members who opposed plans.

The prime minister said earlier today that he wanted a ‘simple and user-friendly’ travel system for the public – hinting that proposals could be ditched.

Asked if he personally backed the new list earlier today, Mr Johnson said: ‘I understand how much people plan, prepare, for the summer holidays.

‘But we have also got to remember this is still a dangerous virus and we must try and stop variants coming in, must stop importing variants from abroad, so we have to have a balanced approach.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson wants 'user-friendly' international travel rules

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‘What I want to see is something that is as simple and as user-friendly for people as possible.’

The amber watchlist would have applied to countries at risk of moving into the red category, which requires hotel quarantine for 10 days at a cost of £1,750 per adult.

Concerns were raised that the move would scupper thousands of Britons’ holiday plans who would be forced to scramble home to avoid quarantine in scenes that have become familiar at airports since spring.

Travel expert Paul Charles, chief executive of The PC Agency consultancy firm, told ITV’s Good Morning Britain that the watchlist would be ‘a disaster’ on top of the existing amber list, the green list, and the red list.

There is also an ‘amber plus’ list – which only contains France at the moment, and means passengers are required to self-isolate despite the relaxation of rules for journeys from elsewhere in Europe.

Huw Merriman, Tory chairman of the Commons Transport Committee, told the BBC: ‘An amber watchlist will be viewed as a massive red flag which is likely to cause bookings to those countries on that watchlist to collapse.’

Passengers arrive at Heathrow Airport in London, Britain, 31 July 2021. Britain is set to open its borders to double jabbed US and EU citizens from 02 August, the UK government has announced.

Travel industry bosses had complained the plans would cause yet more chaos for holidaymakers (Picture: EPA)

Ministers are due to meet on Thursday to review the traffic light system and decide what travel rules will be in place for the rest of August.

Health Secretary Sajid Javid is understood to have been in favour of the move, suggesting the ‘watch list’ would give travellers enough notice of any changes.

But Mr Shapps had been pushing for the idea to be shelved, reported The Daily Telegraph, while Mr Sunak told the PM the UK’s entry and exit rules are ‘out of step with our international competitors’ and are hurting the economy.

Labour Party chairwoman Anneliese Dodds warned against creating ‘additional confusion and chaos’ through an amber watchlist.

She told Times Radio that ‘right now holidaymakers just don’t know who to believe’, adding that we ‘seem to have the Chancellor briefing against the Prime Minister in the Sunday papers’.

‘That’s not building confidence, ultimately, in the system,’ she added.

It comes as new rules exempting fully-jabbed travellers from the US and amber-list European countries from self-isolation upon UK arrival came into force at 4am on Monday.

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