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Has the proposed UK travel ban been dropped? Have a read at the law

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Here’s a quick one for the lawyers amongst our readers.

This (PDF) is the full text of the new lockdown legislation which has just been published.

Having read this, admittedly not slowly over a number of hours, I cannot see any mention of a ban on leaving the United Kingdom.


There are other restrictions which could arguably cover this – eg the list of reasons why you can leave your home does not include ‘go on holiday’ – but there is not a specific ban on travel. Perhaps there was a view that this would breach human rights legislation?

You can leave your home for work, so presumably driving to the airport and getting on an aircraft is OK. The Government, to be fair, has always said that this would be acceptable.

So … you would be committing an offence by leaving your home for a purpose which was not work-related or for any other reason on the list. However, travelling abroad is not, in itself, an offence. British Airways will not be committing an offence by having you on the aircraft and cannot be fined for doing so. There is also no requirement for you to prove to the airline that you are travelling for work.

Bizarrely, as the legislation is written, it seems that a homeless person can travel abroad for any reason. 2.5.3 makes it clear that a homeless person is committing no offence by not being in a home, and there are no restrictions on travelling to the airport or flying somewhere!

You are also allowed to leave home to view a residential property. This property could be outside the UK presumably.

Have a read for yourself and see what you think.

PS. The regulations also clarify that hotels can continue to do room service even though restaurants and bars are closed. Hotels can remain open and, looking online, many – at least in London – will.

PPS. 4.15.5 seems to imply that airport lounges can remain open and serve food and drink.

Comments (278)

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  • Rory says:

    Since BA only actually fly internationally from England, if I was going on holiday from Scotland then connecting in LHR, I guess that would be ok?

    • Anna says:

      Well the regulations only apply to England, so unless things change in Scotland, you’re not committing an offence by leaving your home there.

      • The real John says:

        But it doesn’t say your home must be in England. So I think that if your home is outside England (including outside the UK), you would be in breach by going to England unless you have a reasonable excuse to be in England. I don’t think transiting for holiday counts as a reasonable excuse. Enforcement of course is another matter.

        • GeorgeJ says:

          It actually doesnt define a home at all!

          • Josh says:

            Doesn’t need to – the prohibition is on leaving the place where you live

        • Anna says:

          The rules only apply to England, therefore it’s not an offence to leave your home if it’s not in England (unless Wales or Scotland legislators against it, but even then the offence would be committed there and not in England).

  • Paula Fleet says:

    What proof would I have to show border control at Heathrow or BA that I am flying for business, I am not an employee?

    • Rob says:

      None, because it is not an offence to fly. It is an offence to leave your home (unless for work) but I doubt Border Force care.

      • GeorgeJ says:


        One other oddity, there is no definition of a “home” that I can find so all the bit about visiting second homes seems to have disappeared. For most people with one residence that probably doesn’t matter but for anyone with two or more there could still be an element of choice (especially if they go hot trod tomorrow before any movement potentially becomes an unnecessary journey). Also once matters come into force clause 6g(v) would seem to authorise a journey to deal with any matter relating to the letting of a second home ( a Stanley Johnson clause). So potentially I could visit my place in Northumberland to prepare it for visitors after lockdown and set the mousetraps! I am not going to bother, but I think I have the option.

        • The real John says:

          Good spot. I am trying to sell a flat and on reading the legislation it looks like I am explicitly allowed to go to the flat to conduct repairs and viewings (I’m not using an estate agent)

  • Chris says:

    Why do folk want to look for ways to get round the law (or advice, or recommendations whatever)? Why can’t folk just think of the reason why the law is there in the first place. Staying put (and wearing a face covering, working from home, and social distancing) is to limit our interaction with others, and thereby keeping our germs to ourselves and not catching germs from others.

    We should not be discussing this as a harmless loophole to be exploited. A travel ban, if it exists is to keep us and others safe.

    • Paula Fleet says:

      Thanks Rob, do I just self declare then to BA?
      Chris – Because some of us still have to travel and I want to know to be prepared to provide evidence if I have to.

      • meta says:

        Also there is no outbound Border Force only inbound.

      • Anna says:

        Paula – the onus is clearly on the traveller to obey the law. If the airlines have no liability, they are unlikely to care why you are travelling. I’m sure something like an email with details of your work commitments (meetings etc) would be more than enough if anyone did ask, or even work ID. Also, they can’t stop you boarding your plane (if it’s flying) – all that could happen would be that if the police didn’t believe you and did issue you with a fine (very unlikely), you could challenge it later by providing evidence that you were travelling for work.

        • Paula Fleet says:

          Anna – many thanks, yes I can show emails easily with meetings etc, no work ID as I’m not an employee but self employed in a new venture so the trip is part of that.

      • Rob says:

        BA couldn’t care less.

    • Anna says:

      There’s no travel ban, Chris, and something is either legal or it isn’t. A loophole is an area which hasn’t been legislated for. Flying abroad is almost certainly poses less of a risk to anyone than keeping universities open.

    • meta says:

      @Chris I said it earlier, this legislation means absolutely nothing. Long list of exceptions, no real enforcement (police already said they are not going to enforce) and quite a lot of people will not be following the rules for sure. In the end it will not produce desired results which is a shame.

    • Lady London says:

      @Chris + 1

    • Paul says:

      @Chris 100% agree – Stay at Home, Save Lives, Protect the NHS
      I should have had a meeting in London this Friday but my company cancelled and decided that a Zoom call, although not the same as us all discussing strategy together, is the best cause of action in the current circumstances from a Health & Safety perspective.

    • Chris Heyes says:

      Chris you need to remember this is “Robs” livelihood he needs to promote loopholes and workarounds to keep his site active
      in one sense he doesn’t have a alternative
      It doesn’t necessary mean he would be doing any of what he’s promoting, take with a pinch of salt
      It just keeps all the comments coming which helps his site

    • The real John says:

      Of course in many cases you would be safer outside the UK.

    • Alex says:

      Maybe some of us have academic experience in relevant fields, have reviewed the evidence and are thoroughly unconvinced by the case for a second lockdown to the extent that we don’t want to break the law but are unconcerned about adhering to its nebulous ‘spirit’?

    • mradey says:

      Satire. Too early in the morning!

    • Simon says:

      This was my first thought. Quite irresponsible a lot of these posts.

    • ChrisW says:

      Exactly. If you want to game the system you fly out before the lockdown starts. No need to interpret legislation. If you don’t like the idea of a new rule you act before the rule comes into place. It’s like a loyalty program devaluation with advance notice.

      Once the lockdown is in place, stay put.

      • Rob says:

        As far as I can work out, nothing will change in my life (given that I don’t do much non-food shopping). I take my kids to school. I can choose to go to my office if I consider it ‘not convenient’ to be at home. I can buy lunch and coffee as usual as long as I take it back to the office, as I normally do. OK, my son’s basketball on Saturday is cancelled but we can still go out all day if we wish. I can even order a drink at the pub as long as I order it via an app and drink it outside.

        At least one airline press jolly we are invited to is still likely to go ahead, since it is technically ‘work’.

        Unless you don’t have a job or kids and spend all day hanging around the shops, life will be little changed.

  • Harry T says:

    Maybe this was all a ploy to get loads of bookings in for holidays departing from 2nd to 4th November! 😂

    My plane was full this morning (literally).

    • Anna says:

      If I didn’t have family commitments, Harry, I would be booking a trip to Tenerife to view villas for sale, as per the exemption 🤣

      • Chris Heyes says:

        Anna gone are the free week holidays for listening to a 2 hour grilling on a time-share in Tenerife (went on two 7days myself 14 days free but didn’t buy there lol)

        • Anna says:

          We only go to those in Grand Cayman because they only keep you 20 minutes & then give you free scuba diving!

      • Polly says:

        And us to Bergerac to look at old gites . Can’t get the OH Into Waitrose let alone on a plane, so no trip for us, sadly. But it is a rather clever loophole if people really need that break away.
        But best to stay home, socially isolate and keep wearing that mask. And hope it helps bring down that dreaded R no.

  • Notinthesun says:

    Thank you for the link for this. I have been looking for the Regulations over the last couple of days. If anyone is interested in a somewhat geeky critique of how (in his opinion) the Government’s approach to the coronavirus undermines the rule of law you could take a look at Lord Sumption’s (former Supreme Court Judge and leading lawyer of his generation) online lecture on youtube.

  • Cinimo says:

    17.4(c) enjoy a few drinks lounge because it seems like serving alcohol on planes is banned?

    • Anna says:

      I haven’t looked at that but I’m pretty sure the government can’t ban anything being served on a plane once it’s out of UK air space.

      • Chris Heyes says:

        Anna reading your reply above i couldn’t help myself lol
        New Business start-up a flight just outside UK air space
        Once outside we are pleased to serve up any type of drugs you would like at your own risk of course.
        please note you must have ceased taking them by the time we re-enter UK air space lol
        Name the TRIP ? lol pardon the Pun lol

        • Anna says:

          I’m sure it happens on some private jets!

        • Polly says:

          Like our old flights out of Jeddah on BCal pre BA, couldn’t serve us a drink until we were out of Saudi airspace. Hilarious.

  • mr_jetlag says:

    great time for a favourite quote of mine.

    “If the law supposes that,” said Mr. Bumble, squeezing his hat emphatically in both hands, “the law is a ass — a idiot. If that’s the eye of the law, the law is a bachelor; and the worst I wish the law is, that his eye may be opened by experience — by experience.

  • EJC says:

    It may not be an offence in a criminal aspect but this is a quote from

    “Overnight stays and holidays away from primary residences will not be allowed. This includes holidays abroad and in the UK. It also means you cannot stay in a second home, if you own one, or staying with anyone you do not live with or are in a support bubble with. There are specific exceptions, for example if you need to stay away from home (including in a second home) for work purposes, but this means people cannot travel overseas or within the UK, unless for work, education or other legally permitted reasons.”

    So you supposedly can fly but not stay abroad overnight.

    • Rob says:

      This is irrelevant. Only the legal document counts.

      • GeorgeJ says:

        Agreed, the pre enforcement declaration from the government is just history, what counts is what they put through the Commons tomorrow. I presume they must have had a reason for deleting this aspect. Lots of stuff gets changed between declaration and final legislation, ours not to get too concerned about it unless we object and write to our MPs.

      • Anna says:

        +1. Terms like “not allowed” and “banned” keep being bandied about but unless the particular activity is specified in the legislation this carries no more weight than if your mum told you not to do it (probably less).

        • Chrisasaurus says:

          Well, that sums up my thoughts better than I’d managed to formulate them – I for one would like to think I’d have done as my Mum told me…

      • memesweeper says:

        It’s irrelevant if you’re subsequently prosecuted and what you did wasn’t technically exactly banned. It’s not irrelevant to public behaviour, civic norms or as a statement of intent of the leadership of our society. Most people will follow this guidance even if the criminal law doesn’t strictly match it.

        Personally, after the introduction of a quarantine period following a visit to Spain, I decided to travel to Italy rather than come home and quarantine. By any measure under Spanish, Italian or English law this was perfectly legal. That didn’t stop some acquaintances of mine deeply frowning on behaviour they thought was rule-dodging.

        Right now I could find a perfectly legal excuse to leave England on Friday. I’m not sure I’d enjoy the personal and professional backlash if I did.

        • Margaret says:

          Like one way flights from Gibraltar to thr UK in August until the end of the school holidays?

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