Boris Johnson Sticks To Claim UK Has “One Of The Strongest Border Regimes In The World” Despite “Confused and Contradictory” Messaging Over Amber List Holidays
Boris Johnson defended the UK's border polices after criticism of the traffic light system for foreign travel (Alamy)
The Prime Minister has defended the government’s traffic light system for foreign travel after he and his ministers have been accused of “confused and contradictory” messaging.
Boris Johnson said the UK has “one of the strongest border regimes in the world” after criticism for telling people not to travel to countries on the “amber list”, but not preventing them from doing so.
The ban on leaving the country for all but the most essential reasons was dropped on Monday as the third step on the roadmap out of lockdown was reached, but the PM has told people only to go on holiday to the small number of nations on the green list.
Sir Keir Starmer asked him at Prime Minister’s Questions: "If you don't want people to travel to amber list countries, why have you made it easier for them to do so?"
The Labour leader highlighted a number of contradictory comments from a host of ministers over the past two days, saying "absolute clarity" is needed.
"The government has lost control of the messaging,” he said.
But Johnson said the guidance “is very, very clear” that people should only travel to an amber list country “for some extreme circumstance, such as the serious illness of a family member”.
Starmer began by asking if the single biggest threat to hitting the fourth step on the roadmap on 21 June is the risk of new variants entering the UK.
The PM replied that it “is one of the issues that we must face”, but added: "We've looked at the data again this morning and I can tell the House we have increasing confidence that vaccines are effective against all variants, including the Indian variant.”
The Labour leader countered: "In those circumstances, why on Monday did the Prime Minister choose to weaken travel restrictions by moving 170 countries or territories to the amber list?"
Johnson said the UK has "one of the strongest border regimes anywhere in the world", pointing to the 43 countries on the red list where non-UK resident arrivals are banned, and the fines for breaching the home self-isolation rules.
But Starmer pointed out since the travel restrictions were loosened “150 flights a day are going to amber list countries and travel agents are reporting surges in holiday bookings”, adding: ”We are an island nation, we have the power to stop this.
“Why doesn't the Prime Minister drop this hopeless system, get control of our borders and introduce a proper system that can protect against the threat of future variants of the virus?"
Johnson said he has “set out the position about amber list countries I think very clearly at least twice”, and criticised the leader of the opposition for not backing the government’s policies.
But referencing comments by his ex-aide Dominic Cummings this week, Starmer told the Commons: "The Prime Minister's former adviser had this one right.
“He said the government's border policy was a joke."