Boris Johnson told to drop focus on Brexit to fix coronavirus failures

Prime minister Boris Johnson leaves the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London

Prime minister Boris Johnson leaves the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London. Photograph: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire.

Former health minister Stephen Hammond told the Evening Standard: “Even in a crisis a government should be able to cope with more than one policy matter.

“However the need to make testing available, reliable and with timely results is key to our return to some form of normality. If the Government doesn’t quickly get testing into that place, problems for economy, schools, NHS will escalate.”

Hammond voted for Brexit in 2016, but has warned that a no-deal Brexit would be a “catastrophe”.

He was joined by Greg Clarke, another former minister, told Matt Hancock to “get a grip”.

But another former cabinet colleague claimed that the government was now getting the balance right.

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“I think people felt the slow initial response to the pandemic… was partly because of Brexit taking priority. I am not hearing any complaints about that happening at the current time.”

A Whitehall source told the newspaper that a higher share of “bandwidth” in the summer had been focused on Brexit when infections dipped, and that government was diving its time “roughly 50-50” between the two issues.

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