Business leaders call for greater clarity on travel quarantine rules or risk harming services export

Thu 2 Jul 2020
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

business travel

With prime minister Boris Johnson expected to give the ‘green light’ for Britons to travel to 95 countries tomorrow (Friday 3 July), it is not just holidaymakers who will be pleased.

A survey by the Institute of Directors (IoD) – results of which were published in the Telegraph today -  reveals that most UK businesses wish to make short trips overseas as well.

Almost four fifths of businesses polled by the IoD (86%) said quarantine will have a negative effect on the economy, with over two thirds (71%) saying a preferential travel deal with the EU is key.

Clarity needed

The two-week quarantines – introduced in the UK and overseas to stop the spread of the coronavirus – have made it almost impossible for businesses to hold meetings in person, visit suppliers, customers, investors or subsidiaries.

IOE&IT director general, Marco Forgione, has called for “greater clarity and flexibility” on quarantine rules for business travel, saying current restrictions are having a “particularly pertinent” impact on those who trade services internationally.

The Telegraph report the rules impacted the manufacturing industry as well, where specialists and engineers are often brought in from overseas to work on factory equipment.

Allie Renison, head of EU and trade policy at the IoD, said her members were “deeply concerned about the effect of quarantine on the economy” and that “preferential arrangements with other countries can’t come soon enough.”

Future trade deals

Forgione also said a “liberal approach to business travel” needs to be negotiated into future trade deals – including with the EU – to ensure the UK’s thriving services exports continue to thrive.

“Going forwards, an integral part of the negotiations for trade agreements is to have a very liberal approach to visa requirements for business travel,” he said. “This applies to fly-in, fly-out travel, and also visas for longer-term business residency.”

The movement of people through the bloc has been an issue of contention this week in the UK-EU trade deal negotiations, where future UK financial access to European markets has been fiercely debated.

Michel Barnier said the UK “wants almost free rein for service suppliers to fly in and out for short-term stays,” but the UK “cannot keep the benefits of the single market without the obligations”.

Services account for approximately 80% of UK GDP, according to the Office for National Statistcs.

Lifting quarantine

Whitehall is liaising with other governments to create ‘air bridges’ which would remove quarantine for travellers going between connected countries.

While the government expected to permit travel for Britons to 95 countries, it has been reported by the Daily Mail that only 12 of these countries will agree to have air bridges put in place.

Policy changes

A survey by Uniglobe Travel, reported in Business Travel News, has also shown corporate companies in Europe are twice as likely as those in North America to have employees travel now or within the next three months.

More than half of European companies have made travel policy changes as a result of the pandemic, with the most common policy change being the limiting or banning of travel for internal meetings (64.1%).

A similar amount (55.3%) also said environmental or sustainability considerations will come to the fore in their future business travel policies.