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France criticises UK response to coronavirus as European Union seals its borders to fight outbreak

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2 min read

France has criticised the UK's response to the coronavirus crisis - as the European Union announced a ban on travellers from beyond its borders in an attempt to control the outbreak.

The draconian move will apply to 26 EU member states as well as Iceland, Norway, Switzerland and Liechtenstein for 30 days.

It would stop all non-essential travel from third countries into the EU’s border free-Schengen area. 

Ireland has an opt out from Schengen border rules, but it has been invited to take part, as has the UK. 

But France has already pushed back at the idea of Britain being included in the pact.

French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe accused the UK of failing to play its part in the "war" against the deadly illness, amid a strict nationwide quarantine in France which has seen police deployed on the streets to curb trips outside of the home.

"Everyone within the European Union must adopt coherent methods and processes to fight the epidemic, as in Italy, France and Spain," he said.

Mr Philippe added: "It goes without saying that if neighbouring states such as the United Kingdom spend too long continuing to avoid these containment measures, then we would have difficulty accepting British nationals who would move freely in their own country and then come to our country."

Proposing the lockdown to national governments, the European Commission said: "In the current circumstances, with the coronavirus now widespread throughout the EU, the external border regime offers the opportunity of concerted action among Member States to limit the global spread of the virus."

The 30-day plan, which could be extended if needed, will have to be formally adopted by individual EU states, with the Commission pushing for all countries in the bloc to take part.But

New powers unveiled by the British government on Tuesday will allow the Home Secretary to shut ports and airports in the event of "a real and significant threat to the UK’s border security".

The Government said: "This is to ensure the UK can maintain adequate border security throughout the pandemic and protect the public from the threat of criminality or importation of prohibited items that could result from an inadequately controlled border." 

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