Four nations summit needed to keep families safe at Christmas, liberals warn


Liberal Democrats in Scotland, Wales and England have joined with the Alliance Party in calling for a “four nations summit” to consider a united approach to keeping family gatherings safe during the festive season.

In a joint letter to the four governments of the UK, the Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey, Scottish Leader Willie Rennie, Welsh Leader Jane Dodds and Alliance Deputy Leader Stephen Farry MP warned the “interlinked nature of life in the United Kingdom means no one government can devise guidance for the festive season in isolation.”

The letter follows uncertainty about students returning for Christmas and conflicting comments about family gatherings, with Scotland’s National Clinical Director Jason Leitch branding multi-household gatherings “fiction” while the Prime Minister indicated rules could be relaxed.

To enable travel to happen safely, the Liberal Democrat and Alliance politicians believe a “four nations summit” must agree: 

  • Uniform guidance for family gatherings.
  • A common approach to student return and asymptomatic testing.
  • Cooperative measures to expand transport over the Christmas period. 

Leader of the Liberal Democrats Ed Davey said:

“No one country can manage this challenge in isolation. The fractured rules across the UK have already been incredibly difficult to piece together. 

“We need a four nations summit to agree on one set of uniform guidance for Christmas that works for families across the UK. Ministers across Britain need to start work on it now.”

Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie said: 
 
“The countries across these isles are knitted closely together. Many families are split across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and inevitably want to be back together for Christmas.  

“Leaders across the United Kingdom need to embrace the inevitability that people are going to travel to be with their loved ones at Christmas. They must therefore explore workable solutions to ensure that can happen safely.”

Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats Jane Dodds said:

“I cannot imagine a Christmas without spending it with the people I love. I am therefore pleased Liberal Democrat Education Secretary Kirsty Williams is bolstering mental health services and made students returning for Christmas a priority.

“While the priority must continue to be keeping people safe and ensuring no one is left behind, the four governments of the United Kingdom would do well to do all they can to bring some Christmas cheer to a tough year.”

Deputy Leader of Alliance Stephen Farry MP said:

"Many people from Northern Ireland live and work across Great Britain or in the Republic of Ireland. It is important that lessons are learned from mixed or conflicting messages and there is co-ordinated guidance on how people can travel and gather around Christmas and the holiday season.

"I warmly endorse a four nation approach, and especially for us in Northern Ireland we also need a joint approach with the Irish Government."


You can read the text of the joint letter to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, Welsh First Mark Drakeford and to First Minister of Northern Ireland Arlene Foster and Deputy First Minister Michelle O'Neill below:


Dear

The festive season is fast approaching. Families across the United Kingdom are now facing tough choices over whether to press ahead with plans for their usual festive gatherings.

With many families split across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, the conflicting measures introduced by the respective governments of the UK nations could cause further confusion and complications.

This year has already seen Muslim communities across the country miss out on reuniting families for Eid al-Adha, with some communities impacted because of last-minute lockdown rules. After months apart, it was devastating news and we must learn from it.


We must accept the inevitability that people are going to travel to be with their loved ones during the festive time of year. The interlinked nature of life in the United Kingdom means no one government can devise this guidance in isolation.

It therefore falls on you and your counterparts to work across governments to explore workable solutions that can enable travel to happen safely.  

To manage the implications for public health, we are urging you to hold a four nations summit to cooperate on students' return, to agree uniform guidance on the number of people who can gather and to explore how best to expand travel options to allow social distancing. 

We look forward to your response.

Kind regards,

Ed Davey MP
Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Willie Rennie MSP
Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

Jane Dodds
Leader of the Welsh Liberal Democrats

Dr Stephen Farry MP
Deputy Leader of Alliance


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