AMBER has always been something of a confusing stop-go colour.

And now the UK Government is finding this out for itself as many Britons, desperate for a holiday following more than a year of Covid restrictions, are not quite sure whether it is safe to venture overseas or not thanks to mixed messaging from ministers.

Boris Johnson might have thought his green-amber-red traffic-style system for travelling abroad was pretty straightforward. But, it seems, it is open to interpretation, including among his own ministerial colleagues.

Earlier this week, George Eustice, the UK Government’s Environment Secretary, said people could go to countries listed as amber if they wanted to visit family or friends so long as they observed quarantine rules on their return.

But then the Prime Minister hit the airwaves to insist people should not go to amber-listed countries for a holiday but only in “extreme circumstances” to, say, visit a sick relative.

Simon Hart, the Welsh Secretary, later popped up to point out “some people might think a holiday is essential” and was, therefore, a valid reason to travel. And today Gillian Keegan, the Skills Minister, insisted people would use their “common sense” to make decisions on travelling.

George Morgan-Grenville, founder and chief executive of travel company Red Savannah, warned the industry was “facing a disaster,” saying he could not understand why it had to “bear the brunt of so much confused and mixed messaging from ministers”.

Needless to say, this was all an easy target for Sir Keir Starmer, who took Mr Johnson to task at the weekly PMQs, saying the Government messaging was “confused and contradictory”.

The Labour leader pointed out that since the Government loosened travel restrictions, 150 flights a day are going to amber-list countries and travel agents were reporting surges in holiday bookings to those countries.

It seems clear, given the confusion, that, probably many thousands of people have already booked holidays in amber-listed countries and are intent on going there.

Anyone who does travel to an amber-listed country must take a test and be negative for Covid before travelling, fill out a locator form, isolate for 10 days on their return and also pay £170 for two tests during that period.  

In response to Sir Keir’s criticism, Mr Johnson once again insisted the UK had “one of the strongest border regimes anywhere in the world” with 43 countries still on the Government’s red list and requiring a hotel quarantine stay on arrival in England.

“If you travel to an amber-list country for any emergency, any extreme reason that you have to, when you come back, you not only have to pay for all the tests but you have to self-isolate for 10 days. We will invigilate, we are invigilating it, and people who fail to obey the quarantine can face fines of up to £10,000,” declared the PM.

He made clear the Conservative administration was now trying to “move away from endlessly legislating for everything and to rely on guidance and asking people to do the right thing”.

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Mr Johnson also hit back with a political point, denouncing Labour’s policy on foreign travel as “hopelessly confused” and observed: “Wouldn’t it be great to hear[Sir Keir] backing it up for a change, using what authority he possesses to convey the message to the rest of the country?”

But, of course, the Opposition is there to oppose and, rightly, highlight deficiencies in Government policy when it believes it has found them.

Just to add to the confusing picture, EU ambassadors today gave the green light to allow fully vaccinated people to visit resorts across the bloc even though, according to the Government’s traffic light system, they are, apart from Portugal, off limits to Britons - for now.

The ambassadors recommended rules should be changed to allow non-essential visits into the EU by people who have had the full course of inoculations. It will, however, be up to member states to decide on measures they wish to impose such as Covid tests or quarantine.

However, a separate decision will be made on Friday on whether or not to add the UK to the EU’s “safe list”.

There is some concern in Brussels about the spread of the Indian variant in Britain. EU leaders do not want to open up the continent to vaccinated UK nationals only a week or two later to have to reverse the decision for fear of exacerbating the spread of the virus in their own countries.

Of course, there is one solution open to Britons to avoid all the amber stop-go confusion: for once, holiday at home this year.