Britons banned from travelling to EU from January 1

Brexit transition expiry means UK subject to coronavirus travel restrictions

BERLIN, GERMANY - JULY 24: Tourists gather at the Brandenburg gate in Berlin on July 24, 2020 in Berlin, Germany. For the German capital, the COVID-19 pandemic has been economically devastating, as its liveihood depends on partygoers and tourism.  (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)
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Britons will be barred from travelling to EU countries from January 1 because coronavirus restrictions prevent travel from non-member states.

The UK will be subject to the EU’s safe travel list at the end of the Brexit transition period, meaning non-essential travel would be allowed only if the country is deemed to have a low infection rate.

Only nine countries with very low infection rates are exempt from the bloc’s travel ban.

The UK and EU are desperately trying to reach agreement on a trade deal before the Sunday deadline.

Britons will be able to travel to the continent only if individual countries override the rules or the bloc lifts the restrictions.

“UK nationals are to be treated the same as EU citizens until the end of the Brexit transition period (December 31, 2020),” the European Commission said.

With the infection rate still high, EU officials said there were no plans to add the UK to the safe travel list at the end of the year, the Financial Times reported.

UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab suggested that Britons could be excluded from the list until at least spring, when vaccines become more widely available.

"Between now and the spring we’re going to have to keep a very close eye on and control over the virus with the tiered restrictions, with the mass testing," Mr Raab told BBC's Radio 4.

"Other European countries will be doing the same. In the meantime, yes, the travel restrictions and quarantine rules will have to trap the progress we’ve made."

If Britain applies to be on the list, it would have to meet criteria that include epidemiological benchmarks and an assessment of its measures to contain the virus.

The EU also assesses “economic and social considerations”.

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 27: A passenger walks past the deserted check-in desks and passenger facilities in the North Terminal at Gatwick Airport on November 27, 2020 in London, England. Gatwick airport is launching a facility to purchase PCR swab tests, allowing passengers to travel to destinations which require them to prove they are Covid-free. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the number of travellers has fallen dramatically. During the period between July and September, the airport registered an 86% drop in passengers compared to the same period in 2019. The service, provided by ExpressTest, charges £60 per passenger flying from Gatwick, or £99 for general members of the public. (Photo by Leon Neal/Getty Images)
A passenger walks past the deserted check-in desks and passenger facilities at Gatwick Airport. Getty Images

Australia, New Zealand, Singapore and China are among the countries on the list.

But only 12 of the European nations apply the list in full, while Hungary, Croatia and Norway do not apply it at all.

Norway said it would ban non-essential travel from the UK from January 1.

British travellers could still travel to the bloc after December 31 under exemptions for EU citizens, students, highly skilled workers and for family reasons.