Following the tightening of Covid requirements at the border yesterday, with travellers now expected to take a Covid test before departure, Deputy Prime Minister and Justice Secretary Dominic Raab took questions this morning.
Speaking to Sky News’ “Trevor Phillips on Sunday”, Raab said the UK reacted to the Omicron variant quicker than any other country except Israel, rejecting the view that yesterday’s requirements could have been introduced a week earlier. “We acted quicker than any country in the world, perhaps with the exception of Israel”, Raab said in full.
However, the deputy PM acknowledged that new testing rules were “a burden for the travel industry”.
This comes following pressure on the UK government from the travel industry who suggested that further testing requirements will have a detrimental effect on the industry. Commenting on the announcement, British Airways’ Chairman Sean Doyle said the move was “completely out of step with the rest of the world, with every other country taking a measured approach based on the science”. Similarly, Airlines UK said the change was a “premature” move that would “hit industry and passengers before we see the full data” on the effect of the Omicron variant.
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Faced with the view that Omicron is not seen to be deadlier than the dominant Delta variant and that these measures are therefore disproportionate, Raab said: “we are always going to get the goldilocks criticism of too much, too little”.
The deputy PM added that “We’ve got to make sure that we bank the progress we have made”. Pointing to higher wages and an expanding economy, Raab said “I think we’re taking a balanced approach”.
Asked whether the Ministry of Justice will be hosting a Christmas party this year, in light of complaints that Downing Street broke rules last year with assorted Christmas gatherings, Raab said there will be “no Ministry of Justice wide” party. However, there will be “appropriate drinks at a smaller scale”, the justice secretary added.
Questioned by Phillips on the results of the Old Bexley and Sidcup by-election this week, Raab denied that the Conservative party was worried about the rise of Reform UK and the potential return of Nigel Farage. Under the leadership of Richard Tice, Reform UK took 7% of the vote at Old Bexley and Sidcup and retained their deposit. Raab was outwardly satisfied that a “government two years in” took “half the vote” in the by-election.
In 2019, then-Conservative MP James Brokenshire retained Old Bexley and Sidcup with 64.5% of the vote. This time around, new MP Louie French held the seat with 51.5% of the vote.