A European Union ventilator procurement programme the British government did not join — prompting much criticism from anti-Brexiteers — is now reported to have delivered no ventilators to date, and fact-checkers have confirmed that claims Britain turned down 50,000 of the machines from the EU are “false”.
While the United Kingdom technically left the European Union in January, it is currently marooned in a so-called “transition” period in which it remains subject to the bloc’s judges, regulations, customs union, and migration regime — in essence, membership in all but name, minus representation in the EU Council and Parliament.
The British government therefore came in for criticism when it opted not to join an EU ventilator procurement programme as the Chinese coronavirus swept Europe, especially as Britain’s National Health Service (NHS) has fewer of the life-saving machines, per capita, than comparable countries such as Italy, France, and Germany.
“Owing to an initial communication problem, the UK did not receive an invitation in time to join in four joint procurements in response to the coronavirus pandemic,” a government spokesman nearer the time.
“[B]ut we will consider participating in future procurement schemes on the basis of public health requirements at the time.”
So the EU scheme that many attacked Britain for not participating in has yet to produce new ventilators. And might not for some time. New ventilators for EU will take time, commission says https://t.co/IG6BXik1zq
— Andrew Neil (@afneil) April 8, 2020
The decision not to join in with the scheme — which was attributed to the belief that Britain was capable of sourcing ventilators as an independent nation-state before the “communication problem” explanation was advanced — may not have been the disaster anti-Brexit commentators reported it as, however, as it now emerges that it not delivered any machines to date.
Moreover, claims that the British government went so far as to turn down an offer of 50,000 ventilators from the European Union have now been exposed as fake news by fact-checkers at Reuters.
“Multiple social media posts, including many on Facebook (here, here here), claim that British Prime Minister Boris Johnson refused an offer of 50,000 ventilators from the European Union,” the news agency explained.
“But the nature of the procurement process means that the EU could not offer any country a specific number of ventilators… an offer of 50,000 ventilators was not made to the UK Government by the European Union,” they added.
— University Hospitals Birmingham (@uhbtrust) April 9, 2020