The mayor of Calais in Northern France has branded the UK’s last-minute decision to impose a 14-day quarantine on her country as an ‘aggression’ over migrants crossings.
Natacha Bouchart appeared on France Bleu, a French radio station network, when she described the UK’s recent quarantine measures against France ‘an additional measure in terms of aggression’.
She said the move gave the impression that the UK government was ‘panicking’ and that she would have preferred testing at airports and ports instead.
Earlier this week, she described the home secretary’s threat to send the Royal Navy into the English Channel to deal with migrant crossings as a ‘declaration of maritime war’.
MORE: Tory Brexiteer proposes ‘taking back Calais’ to deal with number of migrants crossing the English ChannelThe decision has prompted accusations that Boris Johnson was ‘punishing’ the French over migrants and to distract from the A-Levels debacle and recession.
France’s secretary of state for European affairs said the UK decision would lead to ‘reciprocal measures’ across the Channel.
Clement Beaune tweeted: ‘A British decision which we regret and which will lead to reciprocal measures, all in hoping for a return for normal as soon as possible.’
Johnson has insisted ministers would be ‘absolutely ruthless’ about imposing new quarantines.
Travellers trying to return from France on Friday to avoid the quarantine restrictions face a scramble for tickets costing hundreds of pounds.
British Airways was charging £452 for a direct flight from Paris to London Heathrow on Friday night, but the plane was fully booked by 10.30am.mThe same journey on Saturday can be made with the airline for just £66.
The cheapest ticket on a Eurostar train from Paris to London is £210, compared with £165 on Saturday while car-carrying Channel Tunnel trains are fully booked until Saturday, which is too late to avoid the quarantine.
This has provoked criticism of the government’s handling of quarantine with Heathrow officials calling for a ‘sustainable long-term plan’ to deal with the coronavirus while it remains a disruptive threat to the travel industry.
A Heathrow spokesman said: ‘The UK needs a more sustainable long-term plan for the resumption of travel than quarantine roulette.
‘Testing could provide an opportunity to safely reduce the length of quarantine in certain circumstances, protecting both the health and wealth of the nation as we pave a path towards a new normal.’
The government has repeatedly ruled out testing at airports, saying the idea ‘appeared’ easier than it was to implement.
A spokeswoman for travel trade organisation ABTA said the government’s measures towards Britons’ favoured European holiday spots would result in livelihoods being lost unless a rescue package is created for the travel industry which employs 221,000 people.
Transport secretary Grant Shapps told BBC Breakfast: ‘I think the truth of this is, as everyone watching realises, there’s no perfect way to deal with coronavirus.
‘Unless you were going to have a sliding scale that sort of said if you stay another 24 hours the you must quarantine for X amount of time, another 36 hours for Y amount of time, you know, clearly there has to be a cut-off somewhere.’