Internal market commissioner Thierry Breton said the UK would have been able to claim up to £45billion in emergency funding from Brussels. He said: “It’s a tragedy what’s happening in Britain, and this Brexit is a tragedy, we see it more and more every day. If Britain had chosen to remain in the European Union today we could have helped them.”
In a three-hour “crisis” meeting, health experts agreed to hammer out a coordinated response to the mutant strain as capitals moved to shut down transport links with Britain.
European states moved quickly to impose tough restrictions on people and goods travelling from Britain to the Continent.
France took the hardest line by blocking all arrivals from the UK, including freight, but announced plans to reopen the border.
Spain and Portugal announced plans to stop planes landing from Britain, following swathes of weekend announcements.
Sweden also halted all direct flights from the UK, warning against all non-essential travel to the country.
Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands have also restricted the movement of people arriving from Britain.
At the meeting, member states “stressed the importance” of ensuring the free flow of goods by using “green lanes” for freight traffic with the UK.
Senior EU27 envoys will tomorrow hold further talks to decide on a common set of measures.
If they can reach an agreement it will pave the way for capitals to lift their travel bans.
One EU insider said the situation is so bad that the hardline approach by the bloc “will be here to stay for a while”.
They are considering a range of options to counter the spread of the mutant strain, including a complete ban on passenger flights to compulsory negative tests for all travellers from Britain.
An EU diplomat said: “Participants stated their support for rapid action towards a coordinated EU approach in relation to measures applied to connections with the UK and called for guidelines from the Commission.”
But they were warned by the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control that the new strain is likely to hit the Continent hard too.
The European Council has rubbished reports that Britain will be slapped with an EU travel ban as early as tomorrow.
An official said: “Contrary to some recent media reports, there is no EU decision imposing a travel ban on the UK until midnight tomorrow.
“Travel restrictions are a national competence and the EU is working towards a coordinated EU approach in relation to measures applied to connections with the UK.”