Sir Simon McDonald, the most senior civil servant in the Foreign Office, today revealed that the Government had refused vital equipment from the European Union in what he described as a “political decision”.
Responding to questioning from MPs before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Sir Simon revealed that ministers had been briefed about the EU procurement scheme for personal protective equipment, but that the government had made a “political decision” not to take part in it.
Today’s revelation raises serious questions about the government’s priorities, with some accusing them of putting Brexit over medical equipment which could save the lives of thousands of NHS workers on the front line.
Responding to the news, Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey described the government’s hostility to working with the EU as “unforgivable”.
“Time and again, the Government seem to have missed opportunities to join the EU’s procurement efforts. Continued shortages of PPE over the last few days coupled with the Government’s failure to scale up testing for NHS and social care workers demonstrate that the current approach hasn’t delivered. Lives are at risk as a result.”
Sir Ed’s comments come just days after the Liberal Democrats proposed a pay rise of up to £200 a week for frontline NHS staff, and the proper provision of personal protective equipment (PPE) for them. A Lib Dem spokesperson said that “no stone can be left unturned when it comes to getting essential equipment to those risking their lives on the frontline to care for people who are gravely ill with COVID-19.”