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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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  • Paul says:

    Of course you need to have sufficient ambiguity to allow ones father to go to his home in Greece or his next mate to return to a castle to visit specsavers

  • Paul E says:

    The Northern Ireland situation, referred to above, is different. Within NI self catering venues remain open for families and their are no restrictions relating to foreign travel – and flights to UK and foreign destinations continue to operate unlike what seems likely to happen in England – and we’re in the third week of the NI lockdown now. The closest the devolved government has got to holiday travel restrictions is the following: ‘People are being asked to avoid all unnecessary travel.’ The PSNI are not waiting at BHD or BFS for holidaymakers!

    Since, at least at the start of lockdown 2 it would have been difficult to find places with higher infection rates I suspect that if the whole population had gone on holiday they would returned with far lower COVID levels!

  • Dubious says:

    Why so much concern about loopholes? Surely following the spirit of the regulation is the important thing?

  • _nate says:

    What is the spirit of the regulation?

    Is it to ensure people are trapped in a country with a high rate of contagion in order to maximise deaths? Is it to ensure maximum transmission between students of all ages by insisting schools remain open? Is it to ensure people are as miserable as possible by keeping them at home?

    What is this spirit of which you speak? Do tell.

    In the meantime, we have the law.

  • Jack says:

    So we think we can theoretically still leave? I traveled in May when we were technically on lockdown and it was completely fine. Apart from half the plane being in hazmat suits lol.

    • Rob says:

      BA will not stop you flying. If you get to Heathrow without being stopped for leaving home you can travel.

      • David S says:

        Is there any evidence of airlines cancelling flights yet. I’m out of the U.K. and have a return flight with BA in late Nov

      • Sandra Mckenzie says:

        I live in Scotland, and am hopefully travelling from Edinburgh- Heathrow, staying overnight , then Gatwick – St Lucia the next day ( during England lockdown) – does anyone know if this is possible ?

        • Blenz101 says:

          Are you travelling for business? Otherwise you aren’t allowed to stay in a hotel overnight in England except for the allowable reasons.

          I think it is just advice (maybe more than that in Tier 3?) about not travelling to England from Scotland.

  • Larry Collier says:

    I think it comes under this section.
    Restrictions on leaving home
    5.—(1) No person may leave or be outside of the place where they are living without reasonable excuse.

    Foreign travel for leisure is not in the list of exceptions.

    • Jack says:

      I live within close distance of LHR. Can’t I argue whoever brought me out was going shopping and went via the airport. Or something. Although I doubt the Met will be checking. Barely get them out for real crime.

    • Rob says:

      No-one is disputing this. However, there is no direct travel ban in itself, which is the point. If you go to Heathrow unchallenged, you can fly.

  • AmandaB says:

    I think you will find this this means – no holidayss.

    If you live in England, you cannot travel overseas or within the UK, unless for work, education or other legally permitted reasons, and you should look to reduce the number of journeys you make.

    Not sure why this isn’t clear enough?

    • Anna says:

      Because you’re wrong, basically. It’s illegal to leave your home other than for the specified reasons, it is not illegal to get on a plane and fly abroad – this isn’t even mentioned in the legislation. So technically if you were staying in a hotel tonight (having left your home legally before the law was brought in, you would be doing nothing wrong by travelling to the airport and getting on a plane tomorrow.

      • RichS says:

        If you are so confident Anna, why don’t you do just that and then see how the court interpret it. With the background you purport to have, you should be well aware that the meaning will only be confirmed by a court, not by self proclaimed experts like you on an Internet forum.

        • Anna says:

          I’ve no intention of doing, RichS, and I don’t need to anyway – it’s there in black and white. I’ve never claimed to be an expert in anything, however 3 decades of law enforcement has given me beyond doubt rather more experience of it than most!

          • RichS says:

            As someone with three decades of law enforcement experience, you should know that the only interpretation of the legislation which matters is that made by the court, not by the police, CPS or a lay person.

          • Anna says:

            RichS, if you get fined for leaving your home, and pay it, you are never going to have any interaction with CPS or a court, and I’m not disputing that part of it. However, you can’t be issued with a fine or prosecuted for something which isn’t mentioned in the legislation, and boarding a flight is not mentioned. Though if you want to show me otherwise, be my guest.

      • The real John says:

        Yes, it is not illegal to get on a plane and fly out of the UK, but it is illegal to be outside the place where you are living. It says nothing about the place where you are living needing to be in England.

      • Adam says:

        That’s not right, Anna.

        Taking your hypothetical – being in a hotel the night before the restrictions apply and then travelling to the airport to fly on the first morning of the restrictions – on that morning you would be outside the place where you are living, without a reasonable excuse. The restriction in regulation 5(1) is on leaving or being outside the place you are living. The question is then whether you have a reasonable excuse. As I’ve said before, HMG’s clear view is that being outside the house for the purposes of international travel which is not itself for another reasonable reason (work; attending a funeral, etc) breaches regulation 5(1).

        Your argument that there is no specific restriction on international travel is besides the point. It does not need to be – it is captured by the general restriction. It would be akin to saying there is no specific restriction on throwing a birthday party – there is not, because it is covered by the restriction on gatherings without a permitted reason. Similarly there is no need to specifically restrict being outside the house for [X] purpose; if [X] purpose is not a reasonable excuse it breaches the general restriction.

        Please do not suggest to people that your interpretation is correct. It is plainly wrong and subverts the intention of the SI.

        • Adam says:

          I would also note there’s a specific reasonable excuse for being outside of home where you are returning from a holiday that started before lockdown commenced. If your position was correct Anna, that wouldn’t be required.

          • Anna says:

            There are any number of legitimate reasons why you may have left and be outside your home – I didn’t say the original reason for leaving would necessarily be invalid, only that it wouldn’t then be an offence to make to your way to an airport and board a flight.

    • Jack says:

      I have 3 citizenships. Not sure exactly what authority the UK government thinks it has if I leave the country using one of my other passports. In a court I’m reasonably confident it would ruled, none.

      • Track says:

        It is not about citizenships or human rights.. in this situation you hardly have any.

        It is more about jurisdiction. If you live in England, a relevant person have powers to direct you “to return to the place where they [you] are living.”

        A police person can direct you to return to your home because travelling to a country of your citizenship is not a reasonable excuse in itself.

        • The real John says:

          Depends where your home is.

          • Track says:

            This SI does not define “home”

            Neither it says it only applies to places of living in England.

            All other “fun” that a foreign person transiting Heathrow can be deemed homeless in England, thus these regulations do not apply and they can super-spread safely from the law.

          • The real John says:


      • Jonathan says:

        There’s no ban on leaving the country regardless of nationality/residency. There is a ban on leaving your house with specific exemptions, travelling to the airport is not one of them.

        There’s lots of inconsistencies or aspects that don’t stand up to detailed scientific analysis but the general principle is stay at home and minimise interactions with others so put your personal desires to one side for 4 weeks & do your bit.

        If everyone picks holes in the legislation in order to justify their individual circumstances then the lockdown won’t work & all the economic hardship is wasted as the Tier 2/3 restrictions will return for longer.

        There’s hope on the horizon via. the mass community testing (Liverpool) & a vaccine (we were told in my hospital on Monday to expect it before Christmas) so let’s just keep a lid on things while these measures filter through as the current trajectory has our backs against the wall already.

        • Anna says:

          I think you’re a doctor, Jonathan, from your previous comments. I live in the area with consistently the highest infection rate in the country recently. The general consensus seems to be that covid is mainly being transmitted through household contact (I have seen figures that say 85% of infections locally are acquired from household members). This suggests very strongly that the problem is a) testing and b) getting people to comply with isolation requirements – and therefore people going on holiday or not will have little impact on the figures. I say all this purely theoretically as I haven’t left the north of England for 12 months now and only leave the house for the permitted reasons anyway, so lockdown is going to change very little for me!

          • Lady London says:

            Sorry @Anna it seems people going on holiday from any area esp 85% of transmission in home definitely bring a risk to others. More sympathy if the people going on holiday come from an area where no one has moved for at least two weeks and the nearest case is 100 miles away.

          • Jonathan says:

            There are a couple of Jonathan’s but yes, I am the medical one! You are correct that the vast majority of people are infected within the home environment as that is where they have closest contact with others. The lockdown is to reduce inter household spread.

            4 weeks lockdown should be enough for most cases to spread within the house if the “fuse” is already lit so by the end there are fewer asymptomatic or mildly symptomatic people emerging into the community to spread it. Obviously the stricter the lockdown, the more effective it would be but clearly we can’t lock everyone within their homes so it’s a balance.

            Hopefully by the time we are emerging we have a huge increase in testing capacity through new methods eg. LAMP & a less overwhelmed track & trace system so we can actually pinpoint & isolate cases early.

            Unfortunately this all depends on the public’s willingness to a) get tested & b) isolate which is very variable.

  • Barry Shooter says:

    The guidance is written for lay people on a page.
    It bans travel abroad.

    • Anna says:

      See my previous comment re the word “ban” – it has no legal basis unless the activity is specified in the legislation.

      • Freddy says:

        The overriding 5(1) is you can’t leave home. There are then exceptions. If you don’t fall within one of those exceptions then you are committing an offence

        • Track says:

          I don’t know what Anna thinks but this is a horrible way to write the law:
          by leaving the house you are committing an offence, now let’s have a field hearing about your reasonable excuses.

          Relevant person/police officer is a judge, jury and executioner in this process. How many people, if fined, will challenge it at the magistrates — and how sympathetic magistrates are likely to be..

          This is a martial law.

          • A says:

            Don’t be so melodramatic. It is not “a martial law”.

            How would you propose the legislation be structured given the policy aim?

            Seems to me that the construct of don’t leave home/be outside home without a reasonable excuse, with a non-exhaustive list of things that absolutely qualify as reasonable excuses with the opportunity to be outside for any other reason that is reasonable, seems pretty sensible to me.

            Are you arguing there should be a specific list of banned reasons for leaving your home? That would be…lengthy and cumbersome, and a complete drafting nightmare for OPC.

          • The real John says:

            Various countries’ legal systems are often jokingly compared using phrases such as “in A, everything is permitted unless it is prohibited, but in B, everything is prohibited unless it is permitted”. (And in C everything is banned even if it is allowed and in D everything is allowed even if it is banned, etc.)

            This legislation is B minus (because the list of reasonable excuses is not exhaustive), but I personally feel that it should be the opposite.

          • A says:

            Yes I hear you on the different means of approaching the problem – but as I pointed out drafting to capture everything that would be prohibited would be….cumbersome, time-consuming, and difficult to execute in the relatively short space of time available to OPC to draft.

          • Track says:

            I wasn’t interested in any of A-pinions..

            More in an experienced evaluation from Anna.

            And it is a martial law.

          • _nate says:

            You can leave your home for exercise. Anywhere.

    • The real John says:

      Guidance can’t ban anything.

      All of it is just badly written, as evidenced by the arguments on here and many other forums.

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