The situation is fluid. We know that a large part of Europe – effectively most of the Europe that travel agents and tour operators deal with in the UK – is now open for business.
The difficulty lies with the Home Office’s decision on 8 June to impose quarantine measures on all countries outside the Common Travel Area. The UK was introducing travel restrictions just as the rest of Europe was easing theirs. How these are being lifted is still unclear.
The restrictions in Europe were a product of national governments exercising their right to close their borders. The easing of them is a mixture of commercial necessity (Italy, Spain, Portugal and France know they need tourism) and international pressure.
The European Commission is passionate in seeing the recreation of Schengen as a borderless entity. For the Union to be valid, intra-European movement had to be re-established. The easing of the lockdown means that commuters can move between countries, and the tourism industry are given a “domestic” market of more than 400 million people.
In the UK, the rules were introduced to “reduce the risk of cases crossing our border”. This was backed by the slogan: “Stay Alert, Control the Virus, Save Lives”. No other evidence to support the measure was provided.
How far this was an attempt by the Home Office to put its fingerprints on the Covid-19 story will emerge with the inevitable public enquiry. The central proposition was audacious: these controls (which rendered everything foreign toxic) would only be lifted for countries with a lower infection rate than the UK.