EU says UK hasn’t joined – and can’t, because Tories delayed too long. Statement makes clear civil servant’s ‘retraction’ was forced and untrue
Senior Foreign Office civil servant Sir Simon McDonald embarrassed the government by admitting (video) to a parliamentary committee that the Tories had made ‘a political decision’ not to join an EU scheme to obtain vital protective equipment (PPE) for front-line health staff fighting the coronavirus.
The Tories had claimed that a ‘communications’ problem had prevented them receiving an invitation – but McDonald told MPs that the government was fully aware of the scheme, had been briefed on its specifically, but had refused to join.
At least 111 health staff have died as the weeks-long shortages of suitable PPE continue.
Hours later, McDonald retracted his direct statement to MPs, saying it had been ‘inadvertently’ wrong. Health Secretary Matt Hancock claimed this week that the UK belatedly joined the scheme on an ‘associate’ basis.
But an EU statement has blown Hancock’s claim out of the water – and made it clear that McDonald’s original statement was entirely accurate.
The EU said that the UK had not joined any of the four schemes it is operating – or even asked to in spite of repeated invitations – and that it was far too late for it to do so even if it wanted to:
the deadlines have well passed now and indeed the process is well under way.
Simon McDonald’s answer to the committee of MPs was true and the retraction was a forced sham. The Tories have been caught in a lie.
And in this national crisis, such lies – and the actions they are meant to hide – cost lives. They must be considered a criminal matter.
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