EU throws Britain a lifeline over Covid border closures

The Commission threw Britain a lifeline on Tuesday after it became stranded in Covid-19 isolation, recommending that EU members roll back sweeping border closures to allow freight to resume and let people return home for Christmas, news wires reported.

With queues of trucks snaking to the horizon in England and supermarket shelves stripped just days before Christmas, British PM Boris Johnson scrambled to get French President Emmanuel Macron to lift a ban on freight from Britain. Britain has been trying for at least 24 hours to hash out a deal with France to allow the Dover-Calais route to open.

The Commission advised that non-essential travel to and from Britain should be discouraged but said that people heading home should be allowed to do so, provided they undergo a Covid-19 test or quarantine for 10 days. “Blanket travel bans should not prevent thousands of EU and UK citizens from returning to their homes,” Justice Commissioner Didier Reynders said in a statement.

The recommendations are designed to set common rules within the EU and the ambassadors will consider adopting them on Tuesday. However, border controls are governed by national policy, so each EU country can have its own rules. One option is to roll out mass Covid-19 testing for truck drivers, though such tests usually take 24-48 hours for a result so it was not immediately clear how swiftly trucks could be moving again with Christmas days away.

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