Philip Hammond expects others to follow UK lead over plane 'bomb'


Egypt Plane Crash: Countries to Follow UK in Flight Ban Amid Bomb Fears

Philip Hammond has predicted that more countries will suspend flights to Sharm el-Sheikh as efforts continued to bring thousands of stranded British tourists home.

The Foreign Secretary said the Government had been forced to take a "precautionary approach" by growing evidence that a bomb downed a Russian passenger plane in Egypt last week.

Emergency screening is being put in place at the Red Sea holiday resort's airport to allow UK nationals to be flown home, after an inspection by UK experts identified serious security flaws.

The dramatic decision to suspend air links - taken at a meeting of the Cobra emergency committee last night - has been angrily denounced by Egypt's foreign minister as a "premature and unwarranted" step that would smash its tourist industry.

In a round of broadcast interviews, Mr Hammond confirmed that Egyptian president Abdel Fatah al-Sisi - who is in the UK for a scheduled visit and will hold talks with David Cameron later - had not been notified in advance.

Mr Hammond said the intelligence that prompted the UK's action was not being shared widely with other countries.

"Some intelligence we can share, some we cannot," he told BBC Radio 4's Today programme.

"We have reached a conclusion. What we are sharing with our partners is our conclusion.

"I expect during the course of today you will see more and more of those partners looking at those conclusions, listening to our explanations ... and deciding that they too want to take a precautionary approach."

Mr Hammond stressed that everything possible was being done to bring stranded tourists home.

"We are putting in place during the course of today with the airlines and the Egyptians emergency short term measures that will reinforce security and enable those planes to take off," he said.

"It is possible to put in additional levels of baggage screening and searching that would not be sustainable on a long term basis but can be put in as a short term measure ... surging additional personnel to do things which you can do over a short term period to get 20,000 people back to the UK."

He went on: "In parallel we will be working with the Egyptian authorities and the airlines to look at long term sustainable measures that can be put in place to allow the resumption of normal air activity between the UK and Sharm.

"That is what we want to achieve and we want to achieve it as quickly as possible."

The change in official Foreign Office travel guidance, advising against all but essential air traval, applied only to the airport. Sharm itself - where there are believed to be 20,000 Britons at present including a small proportion of ex-pats - is still considered safe.

Playing down the level of damage to relations with Cairo, Mr Hammond told ITV's Good Morning Britain that the Egyptian authorities understood the UK had "the best of motives" and that they had been "extremely co-operative".

The Prime Minister is due to chair another Cobra meeting this morning, before he meets Mr al-Sisi.