To rewind, it all started because of an EU ventilator procurement scheme designed to help ease the strain of coronavirus on healthcare centres.
The plan is to bulk buy enough ventilators, face masks and protective equipment for medical staff across all participating countries.
Twenty-five EU countries and Norway are involved so far; they’re negotiating for the supplies as one bloc because it will keep costs down, rather than individual countries paying different, competitive prices.
Britain was invited to join – and is eligible to take part under the Brexit treaty terms – but hasn’t taken up the offer, despite being so short of ventilators it’s called for 30,000 more from British industries within two weeks.
When initially questioned about this, a spokesman for Boris Johnson said it was because:
“We are no longer members of the EU,” and added that the ventilator search was an “area in which we are making our own efforts”.
However, after anger, they changed their tune.
Now the government says they essentially missed the email invite.
Another spokesman has said:
Owing to an initial communication problem, the UK did not receive an invitation in time to join in four joint procurements in response to the coronavirus pandemic.
As the commission has confirmed, we are eligible to participate in joint procurements during the transition period, following our departure from the EU earlier this year.
As those four initial procurement schemes had already gone out to tender, we were unable to take part in these, but we will consider participating in future procurement schemes on the basis of public health requirements at the time.
This sudden U-turn – and the ongoing hesitation in joining the scheme – has made people angry.
They’re accusing Boris Johnson of putting Brexit optics over life-saving equipment.
Especially as journalists have countered the government’s claims, saying they believed them to know about the scheme as early as 6 March.
Regarding UK claim that 'comms mix up' stopped it joining EU scheme to procure ventilators:
UK was invited to join… https://t.co/jB2DIYdjeC