Europe may reopen for British tourists in time for summer under new EU plan

Britons could be allowed to holiday in Europe from as early as the start of June under EU proposals to ease Covid-19 travel restrictions. The measures, put forward by the European Commission on Monday and expected to be debated by member states as early as Tuesday, would end the EU-wide ban on non-essential travel from countries with a good epidemiological situation. Ursula von der Leyen, the president of the EU commission, said as she announced the proposals: “Time to revive EU tourism industry & for cross-border friendships to rekindle - safely." "We propose to welcome again vaccinated visitors & those from countries with a good health situation. But if variants emerge we have to act fast: we propose an EU emergency brake mechanism," she wrote on Twitter. The new system would set a threshold for the infection rate in a country where someone is travelling from, but also allow EU countries to use an "emergency break" to block travel immediately if there are fears that new variants have emerged there. “Israel definitely would be on the list, Britain maybe, the US not yet,” said one EU official. Those wishing to travel would require proof of vaccination showing they received the last dose of a jab approved by the EU Medicines Agency at least 14 days before arrival. All the vaccines being given to people in the UK are on the World Health Organisation list which the EU will follow to accept travellers – meaning anyone vaccinated in the UK will be able to travel if Britain is put on the list. EU member states have largely agreed to abide by blanket ban on non-essential travel into the EU put in place over a year ago, with bureaucrats in Brussels regularly updating a list of safe countries that it recommends member governments gradually re-open their borders to. Australia, New Zealand, Rwanda, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and China subject to confirmation of reciprocity, are the only countries currently on that list. The UK would not necessarily be added automatically, however. Member states may insist that a safe listing is subject to reciprocity, requiring the UK to allow EU travellers in on a similar basis. The proposals put forward on Monday do not mention the issue. The proposals are non-binding and would have to be applied individually by member states, because Brussels has no authority over border controls. Several countries heavily reliant on tourism, including Greece and Croatia, have already said travellers will be exempt from quarantine. British rates of infections and deaths from Covid 19 have been significantly lower than those of most EU countries for a number of weeks now, although the EU’s vaccination rollout is beginning to catch up.