Boris Johnson accused of putting ‘Brexit over breathing’ by not joining EU ventilator scheme
The UK is not joining an EU-wide scheme to secure more ventilators (PA)
Boris Johnson has been accused of putting “Brexit over breathing” after the Government decided not to take part in an EU scheme for procurating ventilators to deal with the coronavirus outbreak.
Last week the European Commission confirmed Britain was still "eligible to participate in these joint procedures" despite formally leaving the EU on 31 January.
The ventilator scheme aims to leverage the trading bloc’s massive purchasing power to buy more of the life-saving machines faster and more cheaply.
But Downing Street has instead put out a call to UK firms to come forward and manufacture extra ventilators, with vacuum giant Dyson among those offering to take part.
Asked why the Government had chosen not to join the EU scheme, the PM's spokesman replied: "Because we're no longer members of the EU."
He added: "We're doing our own work on ventilators, and we've had a very strong response from business.
"We've also secured ventilators from local private sector facilities and from international manufacturers."
The spokesman said the UK currently has 8,000 ventilators, with another 8,000 due to become available in the months ahead.
But Lib Dem MP Layla Moran said: "I would do whatever it takes to get more life-saving equipment, and they need to take the same approach. It’s a no brainer - we can help the NHS and save lives by working together with other countries.
“I wrote to the Government a week ago urging them to put pragmatism above ideological considerations and urgently opt in to the EU joint procurement scheme.
"Now I urge them to reconsider their devastating decision to not participate. We can’t put Brexit over breathing; lives must come first.”
Labour’s Shadow Health Secretary, Jon Ashworth, told PoliticsHome: "With widespread concerns about our ventilator capacity and the urgent need to scale up capacity we should be co-operating through international schemes to ensure we get these desperately need pieces of kit.”
Meanwhile, the PM’s spokesman also said that a planned 10,000 ventilators set to be made by Dyson will not be used unless they pass stringent checks.
He said: "Safety of those who need this vital equipment is our absolute priority.
“We are now testing proof of concepts from a number of suppliers in the coming days with the support of expert clinicians and health regulators.
"New orders are all dependent on machines passing regulatory tests; this is the case with Dyson.
“Their machines must meet the necessary safety and regulatory standards - if they do not they will not be brought or rolled out to hospitals."