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UK bans laptops and tablets on flights from six Middle East countries

The UK government has announced a sweeping cabin ban on laptops and tablets on inbound flights from six countries, following a similar move by the US on Monday.

The UK ban on any electronic item larger than a normal smartphone applies to all direct passenger flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

Six UK airlines – British Airways, EasyJet, Jet2, Monarch, Thomas Cook and Thomson – and eight foreign carriers are affected.

Though the restrictions, effective immediately, will not apply to flights where UK travellers change planes in European airports, it is likely other European countries are considering similar restrictions.

The transport secretary, Chris Grayling, said the UK had been in close touch with the US to understand their approach.

“We understand the frustration that these measures may cause and we are working with the aviation industry to minimise any impact,” he said in a written statement to parliament announcing the change.

“Our top priority will always be to maintain the safety of British nationals.” Grayling said the government was not currently advising against flying to or from the countries affected: “We remain open for business. People should continue to fly and comply with security procedures.”

Government sources stressed the decision was not connected to Donald Trump’s ban on citizens from Muslim-majority countries travelling to the US.

It is understood the ban was not regarded by British security agencies as a response to a specific terrorist threat but a general concern about evolving terrorist methods.

A government source said Theresa May had held a number of meetings in the past few weeks about air security. A final decision on a ban was taken on Tuesday morning.

Passengers boarding flights to the UK from the countries affected will not be allowed to take any phones, laptops or tablets larger than a normal smartphone – specified as 16cm x 9.3cm x 1.5cm (6.2in x 3.6in x 0.5in).

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