The EU launched a joint procurement scheme on March 17 to buy ventilators for member states to help in the fight against coronavirus.
The size of the EU gives the procurement scheme considerable leverage in terms of bulk-buying and favourable pricing. This leverage also improves access to the product with manufacturers and suppliers ensuring that the products are available as required while meeting relevant standards.
Although the UK was invited to participate in the scheme, there is a standing entitlement intrinsic to the current transition agreement with the EU that ends in December, which allows the UK to take part.
The UK was also involved in several meetings of the EU's health and security committee where the scheme was being developed. At those meetings, the UK was repeatedly offered the opportunity to be part of the scheme.
However on Thursday, Prime Minister Boris Johnson's spokesman, Dominic Cummings said that the UK would not be part of the procurement scheme because the UK was no longer a member of the EU.
This is not true because the UK is entitled to participate in joint schemes like this under the transition period.
Moreover, Norway is not a member of the EU, but participated in the joint procurement scheme. The prime minister's spokesman either doesn't know what he is talking about or he is deliberately trying to mislead the British people.
The deadline to join the EU ventilator purchasing scheme, which was declared successful by EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, has now passed, and on Friday the government came up with a different reason why the UK did not participate scheme. Apparently there was a mix-up in an email sent to the UK by the EU, which resulted in the UK missing the deadline. Really?
This is unacceptable because ventilators and intensive care units (ICU) are critical to saving lives during this coronavirus pandemic and the UK is not well prepared, first because of years of cuts to the NHS and now this scandalous Brexit-motivated decision.
Consider that the UK has 11,658 confirmed COVID-19 cases with 578 deaths, while Germany has a much higher number of confirmed cases, 50,178 but with 321 deaths. It comes as no surprise that Germany has invested a lot more than the UK in critical care, including more ICUs and ventilators.
Information coming from frontline NHS staff is that there is a pressing need for ventilators as well as personal protective equipment (PPE). But instead of addressing the critical needs of patients and healthcare workers, Boris Johnson and his government are allowing Brexit considerations to get in the way of crucial decisions that could save lives.
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