France not exempt from 14-day visitor quarantine rules – No 10

The UK has denied that those coming from France will be exempt from moves to quarantine international visitors.

The comments from Downing Street come despite the Prime Minister, in a phone call with French president Emmanuel Macron on Sunday, stating that "no quarantine measures would apply to travellers coming from France at this stage".

Talk of a forthcoming exemption caused the European Commission to warn that no country following European Union rules would be allowed to discriminate against another when easing travel restrictions after lockdown – a point repeated by Brussels on Wednesday.

Boris Johnson this week confirmed the UK would "impose quarantine on people coming into this country by air" once the domestic coronavirus transmission rate had been successfully suppressed.

Johnson Macron
Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron on Sunday regarding planned quarantine measures (Andrew Parsons/PA)

But, while the restrictions will not apply to Ireland, Downing Street strongly denied that France will also be handed an exemption.

The Prime Minister's official spokesman told reporters: "If you look at what was actually said in the joint statement on Sunday night, it said no quarantine measures apply to France at this stage and the key words in that sentence are 'at this stage'.

"So there is no exemption agreed with France. What we have said is that we will be working together with the French on this issue in the coming weeks.

"A working group between the two governments will be set up to ensure that consultation takes place throughout the coming weeks and that cooperation is particularly necessary for the management of our common border."

There was a "particular issue" around the movement of freight, said Number 10, but added that "our plans for the rest of the world, we will set those out in due course".

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Lockdown restrictions eased in England
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Lockdown restrictions eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
A commuter wearing passes a sign telling passes a sign advising passengers to "Avoid this Station right now" at Walthamstow undergound station in London on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by Tolga Akmen / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
In Pictures: Back to the greens and garden centres as lockdown eased in England
Station staff work at a quiet quiet Waterloo Station in London during rush hour, Wednesday, May 13, 2020, as the country continues in lockdown to help stop the spread of coronavirus. Some of the coronavirus lockdown measures are being relaxed in England on Wednesday, with those workers who are unable to work from home, such as those in construction and manufacturing, encouraged to return to work. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Walkers take a stroll at Rannerdale Knotts in the Lake District, Cumbria, on the first day of lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions on leisure activities and outdoor exercise. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
Two fishermen angle their rods towards the sea on the beach at Minehead after the announcement of plans to bring the country out of lockdown. (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)
Two men play football on the beach at Minehead after the announcement of plans to bring the country out of lockdown. (Photo by Ben Birchall/PA Images via Getty Images)
A man fishes near Ashtead, Surrey, on the first day of lifting of lockdown restrictions on leisure activities including tennis, water sports, angling and golf. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
A man fishes near Ashtead, Surrey, on the first day of lifting of lockdown restrictions on leisure activities including tennis, water sports, angling and golf. (Photo by Steve Parsons/PA Images via Getty Images)
A police officer wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), including a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, stands with commuters as they travel in the morning rush hour on TfL (Transport for London) London underground Victoria Line trains from Finsbury Park towards central London on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by Isabel INFANTES / AFP) (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)
A pedestrian wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), including a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, walks past street art graffiti praising the workers od Britain's NHS (National Health Service) and other key workers, by artists Nathan Bowen and Harry Blackmore, in London on April 23, 2020. on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES / AFP) / RESTRICTED TO EDITORIAL USE - MANDATORY MENTION OF THE ARTIST UPON PUBLICATION - TO ILLUSTRATE THE EVENT AS SPECIFIED IN THE CAPTION (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED, - MAY 13: A safety sign saying "Pro-Shop open, one in one out, thank you" as golf courses reopen in England under government guidelines during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at Thorpe Hall golf course on May 13, 2020 in Southend on Sea, England. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)
SOUTHEND ON SEA, ENGLAND - MAY 13: A safety sign on the flag saying "Please do not touch the flags" as a golfer plays as shot on the green as golf courses reopen in England under government guidelines during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at Thorpe Hall golf course on May 13, 2020 in Southend on Sea, England. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)
SOUTHEND ON SEA, ENGLAND - MAY 13: A "Welcome back" and Covid-19 safety sign as a golfer plays on the practice putting green as golf courses reopen in England under government guidelines during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at Thorpe Hall golf course on May 13, 2020 in Southend on Sea, England. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)
SOUTHEND ON SEA, ENGLAND - MAY 13: A rainbow forms as sprinklers spray over the practice putting green as golf courses reopen in England under government guidelines during the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at Thorpe Hall golf course on May 13, 2020 in Southend on Sea, England. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by John Keeble/Getty Images)
The British Government's new COVID-19 slogan "Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives" is pictured on the BT (British Telecom) tower, in central London on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES / AFP) (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)
WEYMOUTH, ENGLAND - MAY 13: A section of beach has been closed whilst police await the bomb squad after a suspicious item was found on May 13, 2020 in Weymouth, United Kingdom. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
Walkers take a stroll at Rannerdale Knotts in the Lake District, Cumbria, on the first day of lifting of coronavirus lockdown restrictions on leisure activities and outdoor exercise. (Photo by Owen Humphreys/PA Images via Getty Images)
WEYMOUTH, ENGLAND - MAY 13: A section of beach has been closed whilst police await the bomb squad after a suspicious item was found on May 13, 2020 in Weymouth, United Kingdom. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
A sign tells commuters that they need to wear PPE (personal protective equipment) of a face covering, or mask, and observe social distancing as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, at Westminster underground station in central London on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS / AFP) (Photo by DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - MAY 13: Protective screens and hand gel are seen in a Pret a Manger store on May 13, 2020 in London, England. The prime minister announced the general contours of a phased exit from the current lockdown, adopted nearly two months ago in an effort curb the spread of Covid-19. (Photo by Peter Summers/Getty Images)
A commuter wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), including a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, travel in the morning rush hour on TfL (Transport for London) London underground Victoria Line train from Walthamstow towards central London on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by Tolga AKMEN / AFP) (Photo by TOLGA AKMEN/AFP via Getty Images)
A commuter wearing PPE (personal protective equipment), including a face mask as a precautionary measure against COVID-19, travel waits on th eplatform at Oxford Circus to travel on a TfL (Transport for London) London underground Victoria Line train in central London on May 13, 2020, as people start to return to work after COVID-19 lockdown restrictions were eased. - Britain's economy shrank two percent in the first three months of the year, rocked by the fallout from the coronavirus pandemic, official data showed Wednesday, with analysts predicting even worse to come. Prime Minister Boris Johnson began this week to relax some of lockdown measures in order to help the economy, despite the rising death toll, but he has also stressed that great caution is needed. (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES / AFP) (Photo by ISABEL INFANTES/AFP via Getty Images)
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Brussels confirmed, in a European Commission press briefing on Wednesday, that UK citizens will be allowed to visit and holiday in European countries when coronavirus-related restrictions are lifted.

But home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson also warned that "discrimination" based on "passports" would not be permitted.

The commission's health spokesman Stefan De Keersmaecker reminded Downing Street on Tuesday that the UK remained subject to EU free movement rules during the Brexit transition period, which is currently due to end in 2021.

Under bloc rules, member states are free to set their own lockdown restrictions, which can include quarantining visitors, but when easing them they must lift them for all nations deemed to have "similar epidemiological situations".

Ms Johansson said: "UK residents are being treated the same way as EU residents this year during the transition period.

"They will not be excluded from open borders or the removing of border restrictions.

"But what is very clear is that all member states have to act in a non-discriminatory way.

EC virus
European Commissioner for Home Affairs Ylva Johansson speaks to reporters (Olivier Hoslet/AP)

"That means it is not possible to open your borders only for citizens from a specific country.

"If you open a border, then it is open for all EU citizens, including UK residents, to cross this border.

"It is not possible to make this discrimination, to say it is just according to their passport."

In an answer to a separate question, Ms Johansson also said the commission had the power to "act" if EU rules were not being followed.

Holiday giant Tui, which is looking to cut up to 8,000 roles worldwide due to Covid-19, also called for free movement to be respected.

Coronavirus Tui
Tui has urged the Government to apply 'free movement' principles as it starts to ease travel restrictions (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Fritz Joussen, chief executive of the UK's biggest tour operator, said on Wednesday that "politicians could more and more take the view that, particularly in Europe, free movement is appropriate and adequate when it is safe".

Questions about the UK's policy towards visitors have also been asked of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage), the group of experts who have been making recommendations to ministers throughout the crisis.

Yvette Cooper, chair of the Commons Home Affairs Committee, asked the Home Office's chief scientific adviser, Professor John Aston, if he would publish any "updated" Sage advice to the Government on international arrivals.

The Labour MP also asked Prof Aston on "what scientific basis was the decision made to exempt France" from the 14-day requirement.

Dr Jenny Harries, deputy chief medical officer for England, previously told a Royal Society of Medicine webinar that those arriving from other countries could present a "significant risk" for the UK.

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