Jacob Rees-Mogg under fire for 'disgraceful' comparison of Yellowhammer doctor to discredited anti-vaxxer
Jacob Rees-Mogg has been criticised by doctors' leaders for the “disgraceful” comparison of a neurologist to a discredited anti-vaccine doctor.
The Commons Leader was urged by the British Medical Association to apologise to Dr David Nicholl amid a row over the potential impact of a no-deal Brexit on the NHS.
Dr Nicholl wrote the medical section of the Government's Operation Yellowhammer report into the potential effects of leaving the EU without an agreement.
He rang in to a phone-in on LBC on Monday what “level of patient mortality” he would be happy with if the UK leaves the EU without a deal.
The MP replied: "I don't think there is any reason to suppose that a no-deal Brexit should lead to a mortality rate.
"I think this is the worst excess of Project Fear and I'm surprised that a doctor in your position would be fearmongering this way on public radio."
He added: "It's deeply irresponsible Dr Nicholl for you to call in and try to spread fear across the country. It's typical of Remainer campaigners and you should be quite ashamed."
During business questions in the House of Commons on Thursday, Labour’s shadow leader Valerie Vaz urged Mr Rees-Mogg to apologise and publish the Government's full no-deal preparations.
But the minister hit back, comparing Dr Nicholl to Andrew Wakefield, who wrongly claimed there was a link between the MMR vaccine and autism in children, before he was eventually struck off.
He said: “The preparations have been made. They are in place and they have been done with remarkable efficiency. But yes, a lot of Remainers wish to make our skins crawl.
“I am afraid it seems to me that Dr David Nicholl is as irresponsible as Dr Wakefield.”
After heckling by opposition MPs he added: “I will repeat: as irresponsible as Dr Wakefield, in threatening that people will die because we leave the European Union.
“What level of irresponsibility was that?”
In response,the BMA tweeted: “Jacob Rees-Mogg’s insult about Dr David Nicholl is disgraceful.
“He has courage and experience to speak the truth about the disaster of a no-deal Brexit. He should be praised not attacked.”
Dr Nicholl challenged Mr Rees-Mogg to repeat that claim outside the Commons, where he is protected from legal action by parliamentary privilege, saying he would sue him if he did.
The doctor added: “This is an attempt by a Government minister to bully a whistleblower.
“Forget Brexit for a moment, this cuts to the core of whether the Government is willing to listen to experts. Yes or no.”