Boris Johnson has been questioned at Prime Minister’s Questions on the UK’s border policy after his former chief adviser branded it a “joke” and “nonsense”.
On Monday, Dominic Cummings accused ministers of developing policy “based on nonsense memes” which claim that people in Asian countries, “all do as they’re told… it won’t work here”.
Writing on social media he said this stance was what many, “behavioural science ‘experts’/charlatans argued, disastrously, in Feb 2020,” he wrote, adding: “This nonsense is STILL influencing policy, eg our joke borders policy.”
The remarks were referenced at the despatch box as Keir Starmer asked Johnson about the government’s policy on holidays.
Asked if the single biggest threat to hitting the June 21 unlocking date is the risk of new variants entering the UK, Johnson told MPs: “I certainly think that is one of the issues that we must face.”
But he added: “We’ve looked at the data again this morning and I can tell the House we have increasing confidence that vaccines are effective against all variants, including the Indian variant.”
Questioned on why the PM had weakened the travel restrictions for 170 countries or territories despite the risk of the Indian variant, he insisted the UK had “one of the strongest border regimes anywhere in the world”, adding 43 countries are on the red list.
“If you travel to an amber list country for any emergency, any extreme reason that you have to, when you come back, you not only have to pay for all the tests but you have to self-isolate for 10 days – we will invigilate, we are invigilating it, and people who fail to obey the quarantine can face fines of up to £10,000.”
But the leader of opposition said that “absolute clarity” is needed over whether or not people should travel to amber list countries before highlighting mixed messages given by ministers on Tuesday.
He said 150 flights a day are now going to those countries since the government loosened travel restrictions.
Explaining that “the government has lost control of the messaging”, the Labour leader added: “The prime minister’s former adviser had this one right. He said the government’s border policy was a joke.
“Flights are still coming in from India and even as the variant is spreading, the prime minister decides now is the time to weaken the system even more. It is ridiculous.”