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US Airline Companies Want Government Leaders To Lift Covid-19 Travel Restrictions 

Major airline companies are urging the United States government to move quicker when it comes to lifting travel restrictions between the US and Europe. Many countries within the European Union have opened up their borders for international travel, causing many US airline leaders to urge our nation to do the same. 

This week, the heads of several major airline companies held a virtual news conference to discuss the easiest way to ease and fully remove travel restrictions, specifically between the United States and United Kingdom, where Covid-19 has been prominent. 

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The call included chief executives of Heathrow Airport, group leaders in the US Travel Association, as well as the CEOs of American Airlines, IAG unit British Airways, Delta Air Lines, United Airlines, and JetBlue. 

The US has barred nearly all non-US citizens who have been to the UK from coming back to the country since the beginning of the pandemic in March 2020. Airline officials have claims that no change is expected to occur, so they’re taking matters into their own hands by calling on government leaders. 

This past Friday France announced, however, that vaccinated Americans will be able to travel to the country starting June 9th. American Airlines President Robert Isom said: 

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“We know there is tremendous pent-up demand for service. We have a lot of capacity to be ready to go for European travel, so we’re going to take it whenever it comes.”

Many airline officials believed that May 2021 was going to be the month in which international travel would really be able to resume with many individuals getting vaccinated, however, the government has yet to make any major changes to the current restrictions and requirements. 

The White House is mainly focused on bringing US vaccination rates to where President Joe Biden initially planned for it to be by the 4th of July; 70% of Americans having at least one vaccine. Additionally, the Biden administration is focusing on getting younger Americans vaccinated, as adolescents currently account for 25% of all Covid-19 cases in America. 

“We certainly understand the desire of many Europeans to come to travel the United States and vice versa. We can’t respond to public pressure or even emotion. We have to rely on the guidance of our health and medical experts,”  White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said.

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European Union Sues AstraZeneca Over Vaccine Delivery Delays 

The European Union (EU) announced this week that it will be launching legal action against the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca after claims that it repeatedly under-delivered on its Covid-19 vaccine shipments throughout the continent. 

The 27 nations within the European Union have all reported a relatively slow rollout of vaccinations for citizens due to delays in delivery from AstraZeneca. The union claims that tens of millions of doses have fallen through, and the company has barely upheld their end of the contract with the EU to get every citizen vaccinated. 

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The EU initially ordered 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca Covid-19 vaccine, with an optional 100 million doses, of which the union has gone without. 

AstraZeneca released a statement in which they claimed that they “regret” that the European Commission is choosing to take action against the company, but it would be strongly defending itself in a court setting. 

AstraZeneca and the EU in general have already been dealing with some major tensions as many citizens refused to get vaccinated, so that combined with the company’s own failures to deliver the agreed upon doses has led to a major feud between the government and pharmaceutical company. 

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Stefan De Keersmaecker, health spokesperson of the European Commission, was the one who initially announced that a lawsuit had been launched, arguing that “the terms of the EU-AstraZeneca contract had not been respected, and the company has not been in a position to come up with a reliable strategy to ensure timely delivery of doses.”

“We want to make sure that there is a speedy delivery of a sufficient number of doses that European citizens are entitled to, and which have been promised on the basis of the contract. All 27 countries support this legal action.”

AstraZeneca released their own statement this Monday: “Following an unprecedented year of scientific discovery, very complex negotiations, and manufacturing challenges, our company is about to deliver almost 50 million doses to European countries by the end of April, in line with our forecast.”

The company added that “AstraZeneca has fully complied with the Advance Purchase Agreement with the European Commission and will strongly defend itself in court. We believe any litigation is without merit and we welcome this opportunity to resolve this dispute as soon as possible.”

Europe Facing Another Easter Full Of Covid Restrictions

Despite the rollout of multiple vaccines, European nations are about to endure another holiday weekend full of restrictions to combat the spreading of Covid-19 and its variants.

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French President Emmanuel Macron Tests Positive For Covid-19

The Élysée Palace made an official announcement this week that President Emmanuel Macron has been diagnosed with Covid-19 after developing symptoms.

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European Union Agrees On $2 Trillion Relief Package 

Leaders of the 27 member states that make up the European Union reached a final agreement this week that would pass a $2 trillion relief package “designed to rebuild the bloc’s faltering economies” as a direct result of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

The package itself is made up of the multi-annual Financial Framework which accounts for $1.3 trillion to be paid to every member state and distributed across the bloc over a seven-year period. The rest of the $2 trillion comes from an additional $858 billion Covid recovery fund, which will go towards every financial market in Europe as well as take the form of grants and loans to certain member states. 

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The European Union (EU) initially reached this agreement deal back in July, however, member states have since struggled to reach a unanimous agreement on how the funds will be distributed. Disparities among the member states first appeared after the EU demanded the funds be withheld from states that were deemed in violation of the rule of law. 

Poland and Hungary immediately vetoed the agreement after that demand was met due to the fact that both countries are under investigation for violating the rule of law; specifically the suppression of political opposition and undermining the independence of judges. 

Poland and Hungary, however, reached a compromise deal at a recent meeting in Brussels which stated that if enough member states believe that the two states aren’t meeting the EU’s agreed rules and standards, they can then vote to determine what funding should be distributed there. Vera Jourova, the vice president of the European Commission, recently released a statement in which she said she was “satisfied that the legal text of the Regulation on Rule of Law conditionality remains untouched and that there is qualified majority voting in the decision of the Council.”

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“Some Member States might want to seek full legal certainty on this important matter before the European Court of Justice. This is their right. I expect the proceeding to go fast. In my view, we are talking about months rather than years.” Jourova isn’t sure if these proceedings will satisfy all individuals on both sides, however, all parties can agree that there isn’t time to argue over political ideologies when the world is enduring one of the worst health and economic crisis’ in history. 

Poland’s Prime Minister, Mateusz Morawiecki, has recently released a statement as well in which he claimed that he intends to take the EU to the Court of Justice eventually. Jakub Jaraczewski, legal officer at Democracy Reporting International, spoke with the media recently about this major contention in Europe. 

“There is a concern that the padding added to the rule of law conditionality mechanism will delay its effective use. If Member States will be able to challenge the proposed regulation before the European Court of Justice, it might take a lot of time before the conditionality mechanism could be effectively implemented.”

For European citizens, this agreement will act as a huge relief in terms of the struggles they’ve faced from the Covid-19 pandemic. The money will help member states build back their economies, and thus, return to a greater sense of normalcy.

Europe & British Union Flags

How Will Brexit Affect American Travelers?

After several years of debate the United Kingdom is still trying to secure its deal for leaving the European Union, and following Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party securing victory in their general election just before Christmas, it seems Britain can finally leave the European Union on 31st January 2020. However many travelers are worrying about how this may affect them when traveling to the UK and Europe.

The good news is that nothing should change straight away. Although the official date is 31st January 2020 both the European Union and Britain has until the end of the year to finalize all the details. But for travelers there could be an issue at the borders.

Currently travelers have been able to move from one country to another without having to use customs or passport control, however once Britain has officially left this could all change. In fact one of the major issues causing the delay in the agreement has been the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. The former will remain a member of the EU as it is not part of the UK and there have been concerns that some people could abuse the “back door” entry into the country.

So far the effect that Brexit may have on the country’s politics and economy is unclear yet there appears to be more certainty on how the post-Brexit world will impact travelers.

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The main concern is air travel and how this could be disrupted between America and Britain. There is currently an agreement known as an EU open skies agreement between America and the European Union, allowing airlines from both regions into each other’s areas. However Britain has already created bilateral open-skies agreements with several other countries, including Iceland, Morocco, Albania, Switzerland as well as the United States. They are also in talks with other countries to enable replica agreements to be set up.

Having the open-skies agreement already in place with America means that airlines are still able to fly between the two countries after January 31st.

Ninan Chacko is a former chief executive at the Travel Leaders Group, a corporation that represents over 50,000 travel agents in North America and believes that “the UK is taking all the steps necessary and is rolling out the welcome mat.”

But what if you are traveling and want to fly from Britain to any of the countries in the EU? There should not be many changes for Americans, as they will still have to pass through both customs and immigration in Britain as well as the country they are visiting or leaving, just as they always have done.

The main changes will be for European Union or British nationals who can travel between the different countries only showing a national ID card and a passport when entering Great Britain. However they will now be forced to use their passport across the EU and European Citizens will not be able to only use their national cards when entering the UK at the end of the year.

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The British government and the European Commission are currently discussing whether British nationals could be allowed to travel within the EU for short trips of up to 90 days within a 180-day period. However the proposal from the EU will only allow this if the same privilege has been returned to their citizens. If this is the case all citizens will receive a specific stamp in their passports.

Another issue that could affect Americans travelling between Britain and the EU is the use of trains and ferries. Currently the French passport control for the Eurotunnel is on the British side of the channel and the British government has confirmed that all trains, ferries, cruises as well as bus and coach services will continue to run without any changes.

Another change that had been thought to occur is the Flight Compensation Regulation 261/2004, which is the European Union’s reimbursement scheme for any passengers who have had a delayed or canceled flight. This scheme is open to all travelers, whichever country they are from, and it has been confirmed this should not change.

Christian Nielsen, Chief Legal Officer at AirHelp, has confirmed that it is anticipated that Brexit will not impact travelers’ protections under EC 261, even if the airline they are using is a British airline. Nielsen commented “since the UK has previously acknowledged European air passenger rights laws like EC 261 – and then incorporated them into the UK Withdrawal Act of 2018 – passengers’ rights will remain protected.”

At the moment, Americans are not required to hold a visa when visiting Britain and this is expected to remain the same. However passports will need to be valid for the entirety of the trip. If they are traveling into the Schengen area – the area comprising of the 26 European countries that allow travelers to cross their borders – the passport will need to be valid for six months after their trip has ended.

A new security system to screen visa-free travelers will be in place from January 2021. Although not related to Brexit all Americans, Britons and travelers from other countries will have to register with the European Travel Information and Authorization System. The authorization is relatively easy to do online and only costs a small fee.

Europe & British Union Flags

How Brexit is Affecting Travel

Ever since the UK voted to leave the European Union, the effects have been felt in many aspects of European life, not the least of which is the travel industry. Brexit, the term that has been adopted to refer to the decision to leave, has left people uncertain about the future of travelling both to and from England, as well as in other areas around the world. Though Britain has not yet officially left the EU, the impacts of the decision are already impacting trade and travel in this part of the world, as people prepare for the uncertain impact of this major change in policy. One of the benefits of membership in the European Union is the built-in travel agreements, called “Freedom of Movement rules,” between countries that make it easy for citizens of member countries to visit other member countries. Once this benefit is removed, British citizens will certainly face more difficulties when travelling, though various countries are taking steps to mitigate the decision’s impact.

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Perhaps the most immediate effect of the Brexit decision was a change in the value of the pound; before the decision, the pound was valued at $1.50, but its value has since dropped to $1.30. This is good news for Americans looking to vacation in Britain, as it means that their money has more spending power in that country. However, citizens of the U.K. looking to travel around the world will find that their travel expenses will increase as a result of Brexit. Though no one yet knows for sure what the full economic impact of Britain leaving the EU will be, economists have predicted that Brexit will continue to have a negative impact on the Europearn economy as a whole, meaning these travel difficulties for British citizens aren’t going away anytime soon.

Despite the efforts of countries like Spain, however, Brexit is sure to have negative impacts on the travel experience no matter what.

In light of the problems posed by Brexit, several popular tourist destinations have implemented programs designed to encourage travel in order to protect their tourism industries. Spain, for instance, which is a popular vacation destination among Europeans, has announced a “plan B” to try to mitigate travel difficulties in the event of a no-deal Brexit. Under this plan, Spain hopes to strike a treaty with the UK after the country leaves the European Union in order to continue to allow British vacationers to visit Spain without substantial change to the travel process. Behind closed doors, government officials are negotiating the terms of this treaty, even though no one knows for sure the details of Britain’s eventual departure from the EU yet. As many local businesses in Spain depend on tourism for their livelihood, and as many of the country’s visitors come from the U.K., Spain is prioritizing ensuring travel between the countries adapts to Brexit as smoothly as possible.

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Despite the efforts of countries like Spain, however, Brexit is sure to have negative impacts on the travel experience no matter what. As the UK has been a member of the EU for several decades, many of the country’s laws, especially those dealing with other European countries, are directly tied to the EU, and severing these ties will lead to all manner of headaches. For instance, laws concerning roaming services for cell phone usage while abroad will have to be rewritten after Brexit, and changes to rules concerning air travel are likely to cause longer wait times in airports as well as preventing some people from traveling. Currently, UK passports are emblazoned with the words “European Union,” and while the government has said that British citizens will not be immediately required to renew their passports after Brexit, the future of the system for issuing passports is unknown.

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Brexit Delayed for a Third Time

Much to the dismay of U.K. citizens who are exhausted by the ongoing drama created by the decision to withdraw from the European Union, the deadline for leaving has been extended yet again, from October 31st of this year to January 31st, 2020. The extension was granted after Parliament again voted against a deal Boris Johnson made with the E.U. and resulted from legislation requiring the Prime Minister to seek an extension if a deal could not be agreed upon. Although Johnson famously stated that he would “rather be dead in a ditch” than delay Brexit again, he was compelled by law to do just that, and the E.U. agreed to postpone the departure for an additional three months.

Under what European Council President Donald Tusk called a “flextension,” the U.K. will be able to leave before January 31st if it is able to agree on a deal in advance of the deadline. If the past few years of Brexit negotiations are any indication, however, the country’s ability to agree upon a deal within the next three months seems unlikely. 

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In response to Parliament’s failure to ratify his deal, Johnson has advocated for holding an election to form a new government, which he hopes would be able to break the deadlock Parliament is currently experiencing. Though previous attempts to hold another election and reform the government have failed, support for another election has been growing among different parties in Parliament. Today, members of Parliament voted against Johnson’s request to hold an election on December 12th, but Johnson reportedly will try again to call an election on Tuesday.

The extension was announced during ongoing protests against Brexit, held by citizens who fear the negative political impacts of leaving the European Union. Protestors advocate for a second referendum to again determine whether the U.K. should leave the E.U., but the probability of this referendum being held is low. Current polls suggest that, if another election is held, Boris Johnson’s Conservative Party would gain seats in Parliament, making it easier to pass a deal to leave the European Union. 

If another election is held, the Labour Party is expected to campaign on a platform of pushing for another referendum, though they have stated they would not publicly endorse either the option to leave or to remain. The results of a second referendum are hard to predict; while some people who voted to leave now regret their decision after witnessing the political chaos that has unfolded, others who voted to remain may now desire to leave just to get it over with. And the extreme fatigue many are feeling over the ordeal of Brexit has discouraged some U.K. citizens from engaging in politics at all, as some who voted in previous elections have said they would choose not to vote in future ones.

 

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Britain and the E.U. Reach Tentative Brexit Deal

On Thursday, the European Union and Britain announced that they had reached an agreement for Brexit, just two weeks in advance of the October 31st deadline for departing the organization. Britain’s decision to withdraw from the multi-country alliance, the result of a 2016 referendum in which a narrow majority of British citizens voted to leave, has plunged the country into several years of chaos and intragovernmental conflict, as various parties within the country’s Parliament argued vehemently about how to conduct the extraordinarily complicated process of withdrawal. Tensions have only continued to escalate within the country’s government since they promised to implement the results of the referendum, eventually leading to the election of the highly controversial Boris Johnson to Prime Minister, who campaigned on a promise to “get Brexit done,” no matter what. 

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While all possible scenarios for Brexit are forecasted to have a strongly negative effect on the European economy, with the country’s decision to leave having already led to an economic downturn, the no-deal Brexit scenario is widely considered the worst possible outcome. As such, Johnson’s pledge to leave the EU by October 31st, with or without a deal, has raised alarms within the government and the passing of legislation requiring the Prime Minister to reach an agreement with the EU before leaving. With today’s news, a major hurdle for Boris Johnson has been overcome, though the deal is not official until it passes a vote in Parliament. As previous proposed deals have failed in spectacular fashion to receive a necessary majority vote from members of Parliament, leading to the resignation of then-Prime Minister Theresa May, the future of Brexit is by no means certain.

That being said, the new deal seeks to account for many of the complaints that members of Parliament had about Theresa May’s deal which led to its failure to get through Parliament. Under the revised deal, Northern Ireland will be a part of the U.K. customs territory, instead of being in a separate customs area from the rest of the country, which lawmakers cited as a reason for rejecting the previous deal. The new deal gives a degree of “democratic consent” to Northern Ireland, a part of the U.K. that voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU, as the Northern Ireland assembly will be called to vote on whether to continue this arrangement in the future. 

As the potentially disastrous economic consequences of Brexit become more immediate, however, some U.K. lawmakers are instead calling for a second referendum to hopefully undo the decision to leave the E.U. The Labour party, which opposes the Conservative party led by Johnson, is expected to attempt to force another referendum, under the reasoning that having witnessed several years of governmental chaos has caused a majority of the country to favor staying in the European Union. Public opinion polling has shown that a plurality of U.K. citizens believe, in hindsight, that the decision to leave the E.U. was a mistake, and a second referendum could offer these citizens an opportunity to undo the chaotic results of the previous vote. 

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However, another referendum is unlikely to be conducted before a Parliament vote on whether to accept Johnson’s deal, which is due to be held on Saturday. Though it is difficult to predict the results of Saturday’s vote, members of the opposition party have already publicly criticized the new deal, calling it “a far worse deal than Theresa May’s deal” and raising concerns about its impact on workers’ rights, environmental standards and consumer protection. The U.K.’s membership in the E.U. has long been deeply integrated into the country’s system of government, and as such, concerns about withdrawal apply not only to the European economy but to the impact it could have on the rights and wellbeing of British citizens.

Europe & British Union Flags

Chaos Unfolds in UK as Parliament Takes Unprecedented Actions Over Brexit

On June 23rd, 2016, a referendum was held in the UK to determine whether or not the country should remain a member of the European Union. A majority, 51.9%, of voters indicated that the UK should leave the EU, and though the referendum was not legally binding, the government has committed to following through with the decision, resulting in fierce negotiations about how the departure should be carried out. In response to the referendum, the then-Prime Minister Theresa May invoked Article 50 of the Treaty on European Union, giving formal notice to the European Council of its intention to withdraw from the union and allowing negotiations to begin. The original deadline to leave the EU, March 29, 2019, was extended twice as a serious of tumultuous debates in Parliament raged on. The current deadline to leave the union is October 31st, and the current Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has made clear that he will resist any further efforts to extend the deadline. The term “Brexit,” a portmanteau of “Britain” and “exit,” has emerged as shorthand to refer to the UK’s departure from the EU.

The decision to leave the European Union is perhaps one of the most significant political choices made by the UK in modern times, and the consequences of doing so are difficult to predict, though nearly all economists predict that Brexit will have a strong negative impact on the European economy generally, and claim that the result of the referendum has already had a damaging effect. However, a second referendum to reconsider the decision is unlikely, and much of the current debate in Parliament is centered around whether the UK should leave the European Union without negotiating an agreement with the EU, a so called “no-deal Brexit,” or whether a deal should be pursued, delaying the governmental process of leaving the EU even further beyond what already has been several years of argumentation. Among experts, a no-deal Brexit is considered the worst of all possible outcomes, as the consequences of doing so would be more unstructured, chaotic, and destructive than making an arrangement with the EU to ease the transition.

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Recently, Boris Johnson, the current Prime Minister of the UK, was elected, having run on a platform of taking the country out of the EU as quickly as possible, even if that means doing so without a deal. Previous attempts to negotiate a deal have been unsuccessful, as Parliament has been unable to come to an agreement as to which deal to pursue. The former Prime Minister, Theresa May, was unable to negotiate a withdrawal agreement, and resigned as a consequence.

Despite Parliament’s ongoing failure to decide upon terms for withdrawal, however, most members of Parliament strongly oppose a no-deal Brexit, for fear of disastrous economic and political consequences, and have taken unprecedented action in an attempt to prevent it, in so doing shattering constitutional norms. Some MPs who oppose a no-deal Brexit are members of Johnson’s party, the Conservative Party. As a result of these party members taking the highly irregular act of breaking ranks with the Prime Minister, Johnson no longer has a majority lead in Parliament, diminishing his political power substantially. In a controversial effort to ensure a no-deal Brexit, Johnson decided to suspend Parliament for five weeks, to reconvene just a few days before the next European Council, in which negotiations for a withdrawal agreement could occur, and just a few weeks before the scheduled Brexit date. This decision was met with fierce opposition from most members of Parliament, who sought judicial action preventing the suspension of Parliament and successfully passed a bill into law requiring the Prime Minister to delay the Brexit date yet again unless a deal is reached. If Johnson defies this law, he faces potential jail time. Amidst the controversy, the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, has announced he will step down before the October 31st deadline.

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As time has progressed since the referendum, public opinion in the UK has shifted slightly in the direction of opposing Brexit, in light of the political chaos the decision has wrought and increased awareness of the likely negative consequences. Additionally, trust in political representatives generally has waned, as citizens are frustrated with the government’s inability to carry out the country’s agenda. Johnson has claimed, not unreasonably, that if the country decides yet again to delay Brexit, citizens, particularly members of the Conservative Party he ostensibly leads, will view this as a failure of democracy. A decision to remain in the EU or a second referendum, while very unlikely, could also be interpreted as a failure of democracy, as while referendums are not legally binding they are intended as a means by which the general public provides direction and sets goals for the government. Though the political crisis in the UK is one entirely of the country’s own creation, it serves as a test of the strength of its democratic system of government, and irrespective of the outcome, Brexit will certainly have major political ramifications during the foreseeable future and beyond.