Government criticised for not participating in EU scheme to boost number of ventilators

Prime minister Boris Johnson takes questions about the continuing coronavirus pandemic from journali

Prime minister Boris Johnson takes questions about the continuing coronavirus pandemic from journalists over a videolink. Photograph: 10 Downing Street / Crown copyright / Andrew Parsons / PA Wire. - Credit: PA

Boris Johnson has been criticised for not allowing the UK to take part in an EU scheme to boost the number of ventilators, with allegations that Brexit ideology was being placed above demand for the essential equipment.

Liberal Democrat acting leader Ed Davey said it was time for Johnson to put his Brexit views to one side during the criis.

He said: 'There is no reasonable justification for Boris Johnson's refusal to participate in the EU's procurement of ventilators. Surely we should be trying every possible means to get people seriously ill with coronavirus the ventilators they need.

'Let's be clear: getting more ventilators to our NHS will save lives. Why won't the prime minister put his Brexit views aside, given this crisis?

'By working together with other countries and using the strength of the single market, the government can help get PPE for NHS frontline staff and ventilators to those fighting the virus.

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'Of course we want factories in the UK manufacturing ventilators and let's source them from abroad where we can, but it looks deeply irresponsible not to work with our European neighbours on this too.'

Labour's shadow health secretary Jonathan Ashworth urged the prime minister to co-operate with our European neighbours.

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'With widespread concerns about our ventilator capacity and the urgent need to scale-up that capacity, we should be co-operating through international schemes to ensure we get these desperately need pieces of kit,' he said.

The UK remains able to participate in such scheme during the transition period until the end of the year.

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Asked about the decision, Boris Johnson's spokesman said: 'Well, we are no longer members of the EU,' when asked why the UK was not utilising the scheme, and pointed towards other efforts to secure ventilators.

Pressed if the decision was related to Brexit ideology, the spokesman said: 'No, as I say, this is an area where we're making our own efforts.'

Downing Street also contradicted a claim by billionaire entrepreneur Sir James Dyson that the government had ordered 10,000 ventilators from his firm.

'New orders are all dependent on machines passing regulatory tests; this is the case with Dyson,' he said.

'Their machines must meet the necessary safety and regulatory standards - if they do not, they will not be brought or rolled out to hospitals.'

The prime minister's team later changed their line, claiming that they had missed or not received an email from the EU about the scheme.

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