'Stanley Johnson loophole' allows foreign travel to second homes - the clause explained

Stanley Johnson visited Greece last year in apparent breach of coronavirus guidance (Photo: Peter Summers/Getty Images)

Under new rules coming into force on 29 March, residents will be permitted to leave the UK to prepare second homes for rent or sale.

From that date, new coronavirus regulations in England stipulate that travel outside of the UK is forbidden unless for essential purposes. Leaving the UK after this date without a valid reason could result in a £5,000 fine.

An exemption, however, will allow people to leave the UK if they are travelling abroad to prepare a second home to be sold or rented out.

The exemption has been branded the "Stanley Johnson clause" by the Labour Party - a reference to Prime Minister Boris Johnson's father, who travelled to Greece last summer.

Stanley Johnson travelled during a period when non-essential travel was recommended against. He defended his visit, however, by saying that he had travelled to "Covid-proof" his Greek villa.

'One rule for them and another for the rest of us'

The new exemption states that any foreign travel "in connection with the purchase, sale, letting or rental of a residential property" will be permitted as an "essential" reason for going abroad.

Visiting an estate agent, show home or developer sales office, preparing a property for moving in, or viewing residential properties to rent or buy are among the activities that will be permitted.

Some of the other exemptions to the new rules on foreign travel include studying abroad or competing in an elite sporting event.

Labour MPs have criticised the loophole, with Labour MP and former shadow cabinet minister Andrew Gwynne telling The Guardian: "For hardworking families facing the prospect of missing out on summer holidays, it will stick in the craw that the government has inserted a ‘Stanley Johnson clause’ to Covid rules that allows people to come and go if they have property abroad … It seems it’s still one rule for them and another for the rest of us."

MPs to vote on Covid regulation extension

The new rule on foreign travel is part of a tightening of current coronavirus regulations, which expire every six months. The end of March marks the end of a six month period, with regulations to be extended until October.

MPs will vote on the extension on Thursday (25 Mar), and it is expected the measures will be voted through. Not all are happy with the extension, however, with several Tory backbenchers planning to vote against the law.

They have pointed out that, while the Government has suggested most restrictions on social distancing will be relaxed by June, the extension of coronavirus laws will stay in place until October.