Britain banks on lenient neighbors

2020-12-25 12:07:15

FILE PHOTO: Flags of the Union Jack and European Union are seen ahead of the meeting of European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, in Brussels, Belgium Dec 9, 2020. [Photo/Agencies] British Prime Minister Boris Johnson's appeal to other countries to show leniency and not disrupt supply chains after the discovery of a new strain of the novel coronavirus in the United Kingdom made headlines on Wednesday. More than 40 countries and regions in Europe and beyond had temporarily canceled flights to and from the UK, while France had canceled all passenger and freight trains to and from the UK through the Channel Tunnel. The BBC quoted Johnson as telling a news conference on Monday that the UK had taken "decisive actions" to contain the virus' spread. Johnson said he had spoken to French President Emmanuel Macron on restoring the supply chains between Britain and the European continent. Being an island country, Britain banks heavily on the Channel Tunnel and air transport for its material supplies, and if the supply chain is cut off, the UK's logistics could become a big problem. There are concerns that if the ports are closed for more than two days, Britain will run out of some of its food in weeks. In particular, the suspension of shipments between the UK and France could adversely affect supply of COVID-19 vaccines. Given that many British citizens live in other European countries, travel disruptions will upset their plans to return home for Christmas and New Year or go abroad on holiday. Johnson begging other countries for "mercy" shows his desperation. Aside from serious economic consequences, lingering transport disruptions will surely dent his popularity further. For the EU and many other countries, "political correctness" will eventually prevail over panic. Following the statements made by experts at the World Health Organization that there's no need to cut off flights to and from the UK, Didier Reynders, the European commissioner for justice, said in a statement on behalf of the European Commission on Tuesday that as long as proper quarantine measures are in place, hundreds of thousands of citizens from the UK and other European countries should not be prevented from returning home. On Wednesday, France and Britain reopened cross-border travel after the snap 48-hour ban to curb the spread of the virus variant threatened to paralyze the UK's supply chains. The Netherlands, too, said it was lifting its ban from Wednesday but noted that all passengers must have a negative test report to enter the country. With the new strain of the virus bringing fresh uncertainties to the global pandemic situation, it remains to be seen whether more countries will ease their flight and freight bans and, if so, to what extent.