British prime minister Boris Johnson and US president Joe Biden are expected to announce on Thursday a forthcoming resumption of transatlantic travel set to occur “as soon as possible,” according to a statement from Number 10.
The new directives are expected to be announced on Thursday, during the first face-to-face meeting between the two leaders ahead of the upcoming G7 summit on Friday in Cornwall. The policies will be part of a new “Atlantic Charter” the pair will hammer out over the coming months. The name is a nod to a historic 1941 joint declaration from Winston Churchill and Franklin D Roosevelt during WWII, expressing solidarity between the two nations and a commitment to democracy, a prelude to later diplomatic cooperation efforts like NATO and the UN.
A bilateral taskforce will “work to explore options for resuming US-UK travel and ensure that the UK and US closely share thinking and expertise on international travel policy going forward” as part of the agreement, according to Downing Street.
The announcement was met with mixed reactions. Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss told the BBC on Wednesday, “The creation of the Atlantic Taskforce is positive recognition of the importance of the UK-US travel corridor and a first step towards reopening the skies,” but said it “falls short” because of a lack of specifics.
It’s been more than a year since many have been able to fly between the countries and see friends and family due to coronavirus restrictions.
Last March, the Trump administration shut down most travel from the UK to the US by non-citizens. Major airlines have called on Mr Biden to lift those restrictions in recent days.
In the other direction, US travellers are currently required to isolate for 10 days upon arriving in the UK.
“With world-leading vaccination programmes in both the UK and US, there is a clear opportunity to safely open up travel between these two low-risk countries, enabling consumers on both sides of the Atlantic to reconnect with loved ones, re-establish business relationships and explore new destinations after more than a year of lockdowns and restrictions,” executives at popular transatlantic carriers like American Airlines, British Airways, Delta, JetBlue, United Airlines, and Virgin Atlantic wrote in a statement on Monday.
The new “Atlantic Charter” will include more than just travel guidelines, however, and is expected to cover trade, travel, and “landmark” policies for cooperation between US and UK tech firms.
“Just as our countries worked together to rebuild the world following the Second World War, so too will we apply our combined strength to the enormous challenges facing the planet today — from global defence and security to building back better from coronavirus to stopping climate change,” the British government said in a statement.
The news follows a previous announcement on Tuesday from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to ease travel restrictions between America and 110 other countries and territories.
Another major Covid announcement could be on the horizon in the coming days as well, even as the UK struggles with the fast-spreading “Delta” coronavirus variant first identified in India. On 14 June, a decision is expected on whether England will lift the final stages of its national lockdown, with reviews of similar rules in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland to follow later this month.