The dis-United Kingdom

By | Category: Travel rumblings

Coronavirus has done more for devolution than almost anything else I can think of.

The UK is four countries not one and is acting like four countries but without the legislation to support it. Holidaymakers and travellers are suffering as a result.

And if that seems like a fairly weighty thought for a travel e-letter then let me justify my comment.

Prior to the pandemic, the UK government was responsible for relations with overseas countries. It was responsible for advising us where we could and shouldn’t travel. We had a level playing field with holidaymakers, travellers, tour operators, airlines, travel insurance companies and others understanding what could and couldn’t be done.

It was the Foreign and Commonwealth Office( FCO) – which we now have to call the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) – that issued travel advisory warnings and it was the insurance industry that used that advice to decide if policies were valid or not.

A “don’t travel” warning invalidated the vast majority of travel insurance policies and would trigger refunds or altered bookings from airlines and tour operators.

But when one of the devolved nations issued a “don’t travel warning” it meant that your insurance was valid, the flight and holiday could go ahead and you – the traveller – had no chance of getting a refund despite the fact that, through no fault of your own, you couldn’t travel because of your government’s view.

Now the devolved nations are acting like Westminster but without the rules that swing into place like refunds and re-bookings.

The UK has become a federation of countries rather than a unified one.

In adopting this attitude the devolved nations and England have to consider how to enforce any bans. As I have pointed out before, a Scottish resident could just drive south of the border and catch a flight and how would the Scottish government know that the rules had been broken. Is the Westminster government bound to pass over flight details to the Scottish government so that they can prosecute?

The same happens with Wales. A large number of Welsh residents fly from Bristol, Birmingham or Manchester rather than Cardiff because of direct flights, better flight times, or because it is convenient to where they live. Will the Welsh government monitor me if I flew to Zakynthos, as an example, from Birmingham rather than Cardiff?

On top of this confusion and additional costs that residents will have to pay because they cannot make an insurance claim there is the confusion in people’s minds about the ability of politicians to understand what they are doing.

Based on the identical items of information, Wales decided to quarantine flights from 6 Greek islands, Scotland decided to quarantine anyone flying in from any Greek destination and England and Northern Ireland decided not to do anything.

All politicians have claimed that they are acting on medical advice yet the interpretation was so different.

What they seem to be telling the public is that they cannot reach a united decision, they can’t assess data even with medical advice in the same way and that they do not realise the implications of their actions on their constituents who will be out of pocket.

Will those same people who have been messed around and are unable to claim remember that at the devolved elections next year?

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