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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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  • Blenz101 says:

    I think those at risk from a potential fine would be a family or even couple travelling together.

    I can see the police in somewhere like Manchester Airport taking a very active interest if furloughed parents turn up with their kids looking to check in for a flight but not being in anyway plausibly justifying it being on the exemption list.

    If there is outrage in the Daily Mail / LBC / Social media then they will act to be seen to be doing something. Will depend if there are still long queues at checkin during the lockdown.

    • Anna says:

      Are you for real? The very limited number of police officers there are on the lookout for terrorists and organised criminals, they are not going to be checking why people are travelling.

    • Char Char says:

      If someone has been ‘furloughed’ they can do whatever they want, its not like they are calling in sick. Someone furloughed would be because their business has closed or doesn’t need them at the moment due to the lockdown.

      • Nick says:

        In case you hadn’t noticed, the DM is actually anti-lockdown. So they won’t be ‘outraged’ by people leaving the country on holiday… they’re likely to support them.

      • Blenz101 says:

        Well the point is they can’t just do what they want unless it is on the list of exceptions.

        As the LHR website says across all pages “ The UK Government has announced a second national lockdown for England beginning on Thursday 5 November 2020 through until 2 December 2020.
        During this time, you must not travel overseas or within the UK, unless for work, education or other legally permitted reasons.”

        And to Anna – I’m very much for real, I travelled through LHR and MAN in the last week. Plenty of kids running around. At least 6 border patrol met our domestic flight in MAN to search cases of dirty laundry looking for excess duty free, hardly seems Covid secure or like it should be a priority but I guess they don’t have much else to do with so little flying going on.

        But, I was more thinking a situation like the police operate at Christmas in some parts of the country, setting up pull over lanes and flagging random cars to be breathalysed, as part of a campaign to catch and deter drink drivers.

        So whilst I can’t see the police patrolling check in lines, I can see a situation where cars are pulled over / passengers arriving at airport train stations get stopped and asked the purpose of their journey.

        If you have family in tow and are looking to get on the flights still operating to Malaga, Tenerife, Gran Canaria etc. and want to claim ‘work purposes’ I believe there IS a chance police will begin to enforce if the rules.

        • Anna says:

          So who do you actually mean, border control or the police, they are 2 completely separate entities? There is no connection between looking for excess duty free and checks to catch drink drivers, which is a targeted campaign each year, and doesn’t involve airport police.

          • Blenz101 says:

            I mentioned border control as an example of a large number of government employees who now have nothing better to do undertaking activities that they wouldn’t usually, cause unnecessary up close interaction, and which fit with the Manchester airport mindset.

            I didn’t mention “airport police” pulling cars over. Plenty of opportunities for regular Greater Manchester police (presumably with traffic units in support) to do this (or BTP at rail stations) on approach roads.

            Police in Wales were happy to be stopping cars travelling in from England not so long ago.

            Could even be some overtime in it to make up for the shortfall in policing city centres at the weekends.

  • The real John says:

    I found it amusing that takeaways are explicitly permitted to sell food and drink between 10pm and 5am where the order has been received by post.

    • The real John says:

      Also the measures apply to England airspace, thus passengers on an aircraft overflying England would be breaking the law if they were travelling for leisure.

      This would include flights from Scotland to western Europe, as well as flights from western Europe to Canada and the US which are nothing to do with the UK.

      • Sukes says:

        The real John beats me to it & wins the prize. This comments thread appears to be a classic case of can’t see the wood for the trees. The very first clause of the legislation states “(3) These Regulations apply in relation to England only, including English airspace and the English territorial sea. (4) In this regulation—
        “English airspace” means the airspace above England or above the English territorial sea;”. I’ve checked the prior three instruments in this legislative series and this is the first time the legislation will apply to airspace.

      • Anna says:

        No they wouldn’t, because travelling for leisure is not specifically banned.

        • Track says:

          @Anna, but airspace travellers have left their primary residence (albeit not in England) for the purposes not permitted..

          It was asked above before, would such as a leisure traveller be breaching the law the moment the touches land or territorial airspace?

      • Track says:

        Pandemic does not make legislators smarter.. who would have..

  • Freddy says:

    There is no loophole here, you’d fall foul of 5(1) if you decided to get off for a week in the sun

    • Rob says:

      No-one is disputing that. What we are saying that statements that international travel would be ‘banned’ were not true.

      • Freddy says:

        It is ‘banned’ by implication of not being able to leave your house and travelling for leisure purposes not being on the exception list.

        There is no specific law to say ‘dancing in the road naked is banned’ but it would be an offence under the road traffic act and probably would offend public decency

    • Sukes says:

      Correct. The legislation was always going to be written as a stay at home law ie 5(1), with qualified exemptions – not the inverse. There is a precedent of this in the N Ireland statutory legislation already enacted.

  • RichS says:

    Anna it doesn’t sound like healthy debate, more like know-it-all children thinking they are clever finding a “loophole” in the school rules.

  • abc says:

    You are allowed to leave your home “to visit a public outdoor place for the purpose of open air recreation”. There is no limit on how far away that is from your home, how you travel there, or how long you can stay (as long as you are only with members of your household or with one other person). So going to a beach in Spain or to the top of Mount Everest if you want to do recreation (or exercise) there is fine.

  • Paul says:

    To me, 4.15.5 is an exemption for the likes of Pret to be open as take away next to the seating in departures, other take aways near similar style seats (outside of the exempt locations) would have to close as people likely to sit and eat as if in a restaurant.

  • Harry says:

    I guess they could take us back to the FCO advising against all but essential travel and rather than exempting countries, they turn the corridor list into a list of countries for which you don’t have quarantine when you get back, but they still advise against travelling to them (just don’t advise to end a trip you’re already on) – as that would prevent most people travelling for leisure. But we probably won’t see that change until Thursday morning if its going to.

  • memesweeper says:

    I’m maybe being stupid here, but if
    1. the law applies to England and everyone in it
    2. you cannot leave your home and travel except for a specified reason without committing an offence
    … then a transit passenger in Heathrow (eg a non-UK citizen flying from AMS to JFK) who is not travelling for a specific allowed reason is committing an offence?

    • Sukes says:

      The law is about not leaving your home from 00.01 on 5 Nov other than for exempt activities. If you are in LHR transit then it is not possible to break the law as you don’t have a home to leave. Same logic as to why the law won’t apply to persons who are homeless.

      • Track says:

        “home” is not defined as a place of residence in England. In fact, there is no definition of “home” in these SI.

        I suppose, a Heathrow-transiting person can claim/be treated as “homeless in England”, in which case none of these regulations apply, see 5(3) and one can visit and super-spread, safely from the law.

        • memesweeper says:

          Would we expect the rules to apply to a Scots resident crossing the English border? I think so, so I think they would apply at least in theory to foreign travellers who leave their home in a foreign country and transit through Heathrow unless their travel is exempt.

          • Track says:

            Nice example that a Scots resident position will be considered with regard to his residence in Scotland.

            It continues… if foreign travellers on board of an airplane leaving Amsterdam travelling for their own purposes, and the plane touched territorial English airspace — they are all in breach of the law and subject to fine!

          • Track says:

            That is, the travellers don’t even need to touch land and transit Heathrow to be in a peculiar position.

            The way SI written, as soon as their aircraft touches English territorial airspace..

    • Lady London says:

      transit = not entered the not applicable

      • Track says:

        Actually, this kind of transit (airside) at Heathrow was a pain and subject to security checks — extensive present and contact on the ground. If law sees that transit differently — that’s another mishap.

        But yes like I said, senior managers can fly in, have a meeting, and fly out — free from regulations and laws.

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