Prime Minister Boris Johnson and US President Joe Biden are expected to unveil a new Atlantic Charter when they meet in Cornwall as part of the G7 summit this week.
Modelled on the historic statement made by Churchill and Roosevelt on the post-war world order, the charter is set to include a commitment to open up travel between the UK and US “as soon as possible”.
A statement from the Prime Minister’s Office noted that “Many people in the UK and US have been prevented from seeing family and friends for over 400 days as a result of coronavirus travel restrictions,” adding that “Before the outbreak of coronavirus more than five million Brits visited the US and over 4.5 million Americans visited the UK every year – more than any other country.”
A new travel working group is set to be launched, which will make recommendations on safely reopening international travel. However, new reports of super contagious variants and vaccination politics show a stiff international divide on virus containment as the world reopens. A report in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal notes that more people died from Coronavirus during the first six months of 2021 than in all of 2020.
The statement said that “The working group will work to explore options for resuming up UK-US travel and ensure that the UK and US closely share thinking and expertise on international travel policy going forward.”
But several organizations including the Business Travel Association stressed the need for more certainty on the reopening of transatlantic travel, with CEO Clive Wratten commenting:
“We welcome the formation of the Atlantic Charter 2021 as a step in the right direction for transatlantic travel. However, this is the latest in a long line of Travel Taskforces which so far have only wreaked further devastation on our industry.
“Jobs won’t be saved, nor livelihoods protected, until we are given a certainty on dates for the resumption of international travel. It is wider than our industry. In the first week of June, UK GDP has lost £630 million due to the lack of transatlantic business travel.
“Public safety is paramount. The Charter needs to deliver international protocols that are straightforward and easy to implement across the globe. This can only be done if the travel industry on both sides of the Atlantic is consulted and involved from the outset.
“Until travel can return to 50 per cent of pre-pandemic levels, the UK Government must provide targeted financial support to the travel sector which remains in lockdown whilst the country opens-up.”
And Virginia Messina, senior vice president and acting CEO, of the World Travel and Tourism Council, said:
“Whilst we welcome the news of a taskforce aimed at safely reopening travel between the UK and the US, unless we have a clear timeline and unlock transatlantic travel by July 4 at the latest, we will continue to see jobs lost and businesses go under.
“Nearly half of all adults in both countries are fully-jabbed and could travel seamlessly straight away, enabling airlines and the wider travel sector to recover quickly. Those not vaccinated should be allowed to travel with negative test proof.
“In 2019, before the pandemic devasted the sector, the US was the biggest source market for the UK in terms of visitor numbers, the UK was third biggest source market for the US. This shows just how vital a corridor would be in boosting both economies.”
This week the bosses of all the airlines that offer UK-US passenger services joined with Heathrow and other CEOs in calling once again for the re-opening of transatlantic travel.