Berlin, with the support of Paris, will move to will call for EU-wide travel restrictions from all high-risk zones alongside a proposal to designate Britain a “variant country of concern”. The plans will be discussed today by senior European and national officials on the bloc’s Integrated Political Crisis Response committee. The draconian measures, which could mean that all UK travellers would have to self-isolate for 14 days after arriving on the Continent, will be fiercely resisted by Greece, Spain, Cyprus, Malta and Portugal.
But German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French counterpart Emmanuel Macron believe the restrictions are key for reopening internal travel within the EU.
President Macron has backed mandatory quarantine for unvaccinated travellers.
Last week EU leaders at a summit in Brussels agreed that they had to be more vigilant in monitoring coronavirus variants.
They are particularly worried about the Delta variant, which originated in India but is now dominant in the UK, because it is seen as more transmissible than other mutants.
The bloc wants to shield the Continent while their sluggish vaccine rollout catches up with speedier international partners, such as Britain and Israel.
But talks over the finer details of any restrictions are expected to be met by resistance from countries reliant on British tourism to support their pandemic-stricken economies.
Spain, Greece, Portugal and Malta already defy the EU’s “white list” of safe non-European countries to allow non-essential travel.
President Macron has demanded a “harmonised” response and suggested that new restrictions would be the cornerstone of the EU’s so-called “green pass” coronavirus vaccine passport.
Alongside Mrs Merkel, he said that northern Europe have the right to introduce internal travel restrictions, preventing EU travellers from quarantine-free travel.
President Macron said: ““We must remain vigilant on this point, on the necessary co-ordination. This co-ordination also requires that our rules harmonise on the matter of opening to non-EU countries. It’s the key for the European green pass.
“We are perfectly aligned with Angela Merkel. Vigilance with the emergence of this new variant, and of an absolutely indispensable European co-ordination.”
Last week Mrs Merkel used one of her final EU summits in Brussels to appeal for the bloc to adopt Berlin’s hardline rules on travel from Britain.
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The Prime Minister is said to want to fast-track the scheme to begin next month but ministers believe it is unlikely to be ready before August.
Their plans face significant hurdles over discrimination, including how to deal with unvaccinated children, as well as checking on people’s vaccination status.
Northern Ireland Secretary Brandon Lewis said: “We’ve got to think about how we manage this. There are people who are double-jabbed. There are a range of people who have only had one jab, not for any other reason than the timing, therefore we’ve got to make sure the system’s fair. Also working through the details of what you do about children under 18 if families want to go abroad. These are really quite complex and complicated issues.
“What we tried to do last week is give people a bit of a sense of the journey of travel. But I’ve also been very clear and open that there’s work to do on this.”