Bosses of some of Britain’s biggest travel and hospitality companies have warned Priti Patel they have lost confidence in her over the “misguided” quarantine policy - and urged her to quit if she loses a court case over it.
In a letter to the Home Secretary, leaders of the group which includes hotelier and Tory donor Rocco Forte warn that 1.7 million jobs in their industry are being put at risk by a policy which they say renders economic recovery “impossible.”
“How have we ended up with a policy that seeks to drive the final nails into the coffin of a once thriving domestic and international tourism industry?” said George Morgan-Grenville, leader of the Quash Quarantine group and chief executive of tour operator Red Savannah
“What possible basis could there be for such a misguided strategy, especially one that is going to have the most horrifying economic consequences?”
The group, entitled Quash Quarantine, comprises more than 400 UK travel, hotel and hospital businesses with sales estimated at more than £10 billion.
It follows Friday’s filing of a High Court legal action by British Airways’ parent company IAG, Ryanair and Easyjet to block the policy.
The group said that pending the outcome of the case, “it would be fair to say that many in the leadership of the travel and hospitality industry have lost confidence in you as Home Secretary.”
They added that as “the architect of a policy that prevents recovery, we are sure you will agree that the honourable thing to do, if quarantine measures are found to be unlawful, would be to resign.”
Ms Patel has maintained quarantine is necessary to prevent a second wave of coronavirus and a Tory source hit back, saying: “It is no surprise that the airline industry are focusing on their bottom line over public safety.
“The British public already have a dim view of the aviation sector but putting profit over people’s lives is a new low even for them.”
The Department for Transport is currently “actively working” on “travel corridors” to low-risk countries that would allow holidaymakers to sidestep the 14-day quarantine on their return to the UK.
A survey of the travel and hospitality bosses found 71 per cent planned to lay off up to 60 per cent of their staff even if, as expected, quarantine continued until it is due to be reviewed on June 29.
Quash Quarantine said the policy had proven to be a disaster and would “almost certainly” be judged unlawful as the Government had failed to consult the SAGE scientific advisory body before implementing it and had laid it before the Commons without any impact assessment.
“Quarantine, combined with the unnecessary and ill-advised Foreign Office blanket travel advice [banning non-essential travel], is economically devastating and destroying the livelihoods of so many,” wrote Mr Morgan-Grenville.
“Quite simply, we need both to be withdrawn before it is too late. While the rest of Europe gets going again, the idea of a ‘Global Britain’ is fast becoming a national embarrassment.”
A Government spokesman said: “Our priority will always be to protect the public’s health and these measures will do exactly this.
“The quarantine system is designed to keep the transmission rate down, stop new cases being brought in from abroad, and help prevent a devastating second wave.
“These measures are informed by science, backed by the public and will keep us all safe.
“We are supporting tourism businesses through one of the most generous economic packages in the world, and continue to look at options to increase international travel, when it is safe to do so.”