Follow Germany's example and make it easier for people to visit their loved ones abroad, Don Valley MP Nick Fletcher urges government

A Yorkshire Tory MP has urged the Government to follow the example of Germany by making it easier for people to visit their partners in other countries as he spoke of the pain felt by people forced into long-distance relationships by the pandemic.

Don Valley MP Nick Fletcher told a Westminster Hall debate that many people whose partners live abroad felt "depressed" and "hopeless" because of the cost of travelling abroad to see their loved ones.

He presented a petition signed by more than 100,000 people which said the Government "should class in-person interaction with family members and unmarried partners abroad as an essential reason to travel".

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Nick Fletcher, Conservative MP for Don Valley. Pic: Gary Longbottom

Mr Fletcher, a 'blue wall' Conservative who was elected in 2019, said people whose partners live abroad "have dealt with concerns that are on another scale" to those who don't live with their partner.

He said that of a recent 400 people in 'bi-national relationships' questioned for a survey by the group Love Is Not Tourism, "many had felt depressed, hopeless, and said they were finding it very difficult to do their work or take care of things at home".

And he pointed out that since last August the German government has allowed non-EU, unmarried partners into the country providing they can demonstrate that they are in a long term relationship and have met in person before.

Mr Fletcher said: "There are reasonable requirements that the vast majority of those in a long distance relationship would be able to meet and if we had had something similar during this past year (for people wanting to travel abroad) it may have saved many people quite a lot of heartache and stress."

He added: "While this issue primarily affects partners, parents and children who live in different countries have also been significantly impacted. Travel restrictions have meant that some people with young children have not been able to see them in many months.

"I know the government will have looked at the data on the risk of infection when setting out the valid reasons for travel during this last lockdown, but it does strike some people as unfair that one can travel abroad for a business meeting or to buy property but seeing one’s partner or parents is treated the same as a holiday."

Currently travel from the UK to amber list countries such as France, Spain and the US is legal, but the Government has made clear that people should not do so for leisure.

Anyone returning from an amber list country must pay for a Covid PCR test on day eight after their return and quarantine for 10 days at home or the place where they are staying.

Red list countries are those the UK government says are at the highest risk from Covid, and should not be visited "except in the most extreme of circumstances".

Mr Fletcher said: "I understand that travel restrictions have been necessary over the past year and in the middle of us loosening restrictions the appearance of the Indian variant has not helped the petitioners' argument.

"However, I would urge the government to consider making an allowance for people to visit their partners along the lines of what Germany has had, if we are ever to be in this position again."

In its response to the petition, the Government said it "recognises the immense challenges these restrictions place on people with loved ones based outside the UK". It added: "Unfortunately, at this time people must only travel with a reasonable excuse."