28 October 2020 – the overnight press release

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.

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  • Xmas and NY period is a good time to have a complete 14 day lockdown, set up well in advance so that people can prepare and incorporating all the public holidays from 2021 (public holidays are generally a massive disaster as far as covid goes) so economic cost will be minimal. So if families want to be together it would be for 14 days.

    Students returning is a hard one, it seems like they had a massive peak and then it faded out re covid but hard to predict if they will have a flare up. Students locked down at uni will be one long party over xmas so not the end of the world.

    The media hyped Xmas and NY bears little relationship to the real world.

  • The only reason the media is hyping Xmas is because the press needs the advertising and journalists are getting more and more worried about their jobs.
    If there has been no significant change in the situation Christmas should be a full lock down, the vast majority of people will follow it, as for suggesting extra transport, what planet are these people on. Go and visit the queues full of COVID patients at the A & E waiting to get in. Anything else is just irresponsible.

  • Robin Grayson 29th Oct '20 - 8:29am

    I think it is great idea, for families need to meet over Xmas. It is part of the glue that keeps families and societies together, spanning all generations and gathering from far and wide. To constrain it in a total lockdown would fracture families, cause severe widespread mental stress with dire consequences and be largely unpoliceable. Clear rules are needed to control and clarify it. Complete lockdown over Xmas would destroy many jobs in thousands of small and large companies alike that are tottering on the brink already and with Bonkers Boris Brexit looming.

  • Do not forget the fifth nation in these islands. we must request the Republic to join these discussions. For many years we have spent Xmas in Kerry because that is where my wife,s family are . This year will be difficult, if not impossible.

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