Business West has joined representative bodies in business, education and employment to urge a government rethink of quarantine rules for travellers arriving into the UK. In an open letter to the Home, Foreign and Transport Secretaries published in today’s (11 June) Financial Times, Business West, UK Hospitality, Universities UK and others write:
Businesses across the country rely on the UK being connected to the global economy. Since March, international travel has slowed to a trickle. To the credit of companies up and down the country, not least in the aviation sector, the movement of essential goods has not been affected. However, as we look to recover from the economic shock that Covid-19 has delivered, it will be vital that we start to open the UK up to our trading partners.
Over 1.5 million jobs across the UK are supported by air transport and more than 40% of our trade with non-EU countries travels by plane. There are whole sectors of the UK economy – from SMEs to large employers – that simply won’t recover and thrive without international connections: our manufacturers rely on air connections to export goods; our world-class universities get around £6.9 billion a year from international students; our tourism industry accounts for more than 7% of the UK economy; and much of our hospitality sector relies on international visitors. These are some of the UK’s world-beating businesses, providing jobs and opportunity in every nation and region of the country, and they need urgent clarity on when they will be able to get flying again.
Any steps taken to relax the restrictions now in place must, of course, prioritise public health. They must be backed by the science and they must be able to command the confidence of the general public. As representatives of the business community from across the UK, covering a range of sectors, we therefore urge you to set out as soon as possible an integrated cross-Government plan that includes:
- A framework for establishing travel corridors between the UK and low-risk countries to enable exemptions from the blanket quarantine requirements for UK arrivals. A clear set of risk-based criteria should be set out so that businesses can start to plan for a controlled re-opening.
- A timeline for returning to risk-based travel advice from the Foreign Office. The indefinite and indiscriminate advice not to travel overseas prevents businesses and individuals from being able to plan with confidence. Government advice should recognise that whilst Covid-19 has struck every corner of the world, it has not struck evenly.
- A comprehensive approach to health screening for arrivals into the UK to help control the virus over the coming months. Combined with the Government’s track and trace system, this could support the economic recovery by allowing a controlled lifting of restrictions on movement.
We are ready to work with the Government to help ensure that the UK not only recovers from the economic effects of Covid-19 but goes on to thrive as a global Britain that delivers prosperity and opportunity for people in every nation and region.
The letter’s co-signatory, Phil Smith, Managing Director of Business West comments:
“Whilst the response from government, particularly the work of Rishi Sunak, to the Corona Virus crisis has been sure footed and helped boost business confidence, its decision to impose quarantine restrictions on all international visitors looks like a miss-step.
“It is difficult to see the scientific rationale to this policy, and it appears likely to turn away visitors and make it harder for local firms to strike out for greater international connections and secure the new business that will help drive recovery. We are asking for the government to instead seek air corridors with countries with low infection rates, so that we take a science-based approach to re-opening that minimises risk but still allows economic activities to resume.
“Many of our key local sectors rely on international connectivity – from our badly hit domestic tourism industry, our education sector of Universities and language schools, and our creative, tech and aerospace firms. A blanket approach will impose large real and psychological barriers for the international elements of economic recovery, and we urge the government to recalibrate to a smarter system.”