Merkel faces being sidelined as UK and EU to ignore German plea to BAN Brits from Europe
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In a major boost for foreign holidays this summer, negotiators are nearing a deal to unlock travel despite fears over the Delta variant of coronavirus. They are working on the final details of a pact that would allow Britons to use the NHS app to take trips to the Continent. Under the scheme, double-jabbed citizens from EU countries would also be allowed to enter the UK without restrictions.
No10 officials have been working with their Brussels counterparts in the hope of finalising an agreement in the coming weeks.
A European Commission spokesman said: “There are talks ongoing at the technical level which are progressing well and going in the right direction.
“This is particularly because the technical system and the architecture of the EU and the UK are aligned.
“We have been open for working with our international partners from the very beginning and designed the whole system in such a way that this is possible.
“So it’s good the UK is now working with us towards that goal of achieving such an interoperable solution.”
Significant progress in the talks has been aided by plans for the NHS app and the EU’s digital green pass to operate in a similar way.
Any agreement is also made easier because both sides have the same standards on data protection.
It comes as EU and national officials discuss plans to curb the spread of the Delta variant.
Germany and France are expected to table binding plans in a push to enforce mandatory quarantine on all British tourists arriving to the Continent.
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.
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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.
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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.
She wants the EU to enforce a 14-day mandatory quarantine on everyone moving from the UK to the EU amid fears of the Delta variant derailing her country’s vaccines scheme.
Any decision taken at today’s EU meeting is likely to be kicked up by member state ambassadors because of the political nature of any decision.
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