UK transport secretary, Grant Shapps, defended the decision to put France on the “amber-plus” list.
The foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, has earlier declared that fully vaccinated people entering the UK from France must be sent to quarantine and self-isolation for up to 10 days.
The decision came following the spread of the variant’s prevalence on Réunion, a French overseas territory in the Indian Ocean.
Raab suggested the situation in Réunion, which is still on the normal amber list, was part of the reason for restricting travel from France, saying it was “not the distance that matters” but rather “the ease of travel between different parts of any individual country”.
The move prompted fury from the French authorities and those living or holidaying across the Channel.
Official sources suggest that France was likely to be moved off the amber list in an announcement to be made next Thursday.
However, Spain, where Beta cases have risen by 14.2% in the past four weeks, is at risk of going on to the “amber-plus” list.
Labour said ministers were “tying themselves in knots trying to explain their decision” and said if they “misinterpreted the data over cases in mainland France, they need to come clean and apologise”.
“It’s completely unfair that holidaymakers who booked in good faith in line with the government’s own advice have had to fork out extra for early flights, or lost income through having to isolate when they came home,” the shadow transport secretary, Jim McMahon, said.
Sir Peter Ricketts, a former UK ambassador to France and national security adviser, also said he was “struggling to find coherence” in the government’s position.