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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

United Kingdom strengthens its veto to Spain and ‘finishes’ the Canary Islands

The sun sets on Tenerife

The British Government issued advice yesterday against all non-essential travel to Spain including the Balearic and Canary Islands and ratified its mandatory quarantine, which brings the Canarian Archipelago to the worst economic scenario. Pedro Sánchez, the island authorities and the British airlines summon Johnson to rectify this.

In an absolute failure of Spanish diplomacy, after a whole day of negotiations between the Spanish and British authorities, with the intention of easing the restrictions for the Balearic and Canary Islands and exempting them from the application of quarantine, the result was precisely the opposite: the tightening of measures.

By mid-afternoon yesterday, the UK Ministry of Foreign Affairs updated its travel recommendations and, instead of easing the routes to the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands, it advised against visiting the two archipelagos, as well as peninsular Spain, due to the risk of Covid- 19 in various areas, especially Aragon, Navarra and Catalonia.

On its website, the Foreign Office specifies that the recommendation covers "the whole country". Until yesterday at 6:00 p.m., the islands, with less incidence of the virus, were exempt.

This change in position occured when the British and Spanish governments were in full talks to create possible air corridors between the islands and the United Kingdom, and British airlines had assured that they would maintain their flights with the Canary Islands and the Balearic Islands. Now all of this is in the air.

After learning of this announcement, the Prime Minister, Pedro Sánchez, declared in an interview on Telecinco that "London's decision is an unfair one" and called on the United Kingdom to rectify it "with epidemiological criteria". Sánchez acknowledged that the quarantine imposed by the Boris Johnson government is "a blow" for the tourism sector, "which has made enormous efforts at this time, an exercise in responsibility to send a security message." In fact, unlike Health spokesman, Fernando Simón, he suggested that the British are "safer" in the Balearic Islands, the Canary Islands, Andalusia or the Valencian Community than in their country.

The president attributes this decision to the fact that London is "misfocusing" the measure, "because more than 64% of new cases in Spain are taking place in specific territories" and he refused to link this decision of the Boris Johnson government nor to Brexit nor to the meeting of Minister González Laya with Fabian Picardo, Gibraltar's chief minister, last week in Algeciras.


Be that as it may, this decision that, for the moment, seems irrevocable, has hit the island's business sector like a jug of cold water. His concern "is paramount."

The general secretary of the Provincial Confederation of Entrepreneurs of Santa Cruz de Tenerife (CEOE-Tenerife), Eduardo Bezares, warned that this decision will hinder the economic recovery of the islands "and brings us closer to the worst fears when we present the latest economic situation report”. According to the report, the economic recovery in this third scenario will not start before autumn, which is what is expected to happen, if this veto continues; And this will mean "unemployment levels never seen before", from 45% to 60%.

Bezares also indicated that this situation of uncertainty may “discourage” other tourists from other countries from visiting the islands.

The same opinion was expressed yesterday by the president of the Santa Cruz de Tenerife Chamber of Commerce, Santiago Sesé, who warned that it is "endangering the entire chain of the sector and the economic recovery of the islands." He explained that in the latest growth forecasts, the Canary Islands was slower because tourism was slower; "Now this will prevent us from growing faster."

Sesé indicated that the entire sector had put "a lot of hope" in reopening the hotels "and now this has been truncated." The president of the Chamber assured that this measure, in addition, will cause a contagion effect from other destinations, and says that the most likely thing is that the airlines stop flying to the islands, many hotels will close again and those that were planning to open in August, wont do so. "I am aware of some airlines that have already suspended flights today." It must be remembered that 250 weekly flights between the Canary Islands and the United Kingdom are at stake. For the Speaker of the House, the statements of the Health spokesman, Fernando Simón, have been most “unfortunate” and he hopes that these have nothing to do with the announcement by the British Government, which was just afterwards. "What is needed now," he declared, "is a diplomatic negotiation so that the Canary Islands can save the summer season."