It had to happen: the fight against the Corona virus is being weaponised by Remainers in Whitehall. While Johnson is reassuring the Nation that he’ll do all he can, pictured in a lab where people wear lab coats in a very fetching sunny yellow (we had to make do with boring old white in the olden days), the Health Secretary – or rather, his mandarins – have made an extraordinary demand. More on that below.
There are two more Brexit items which are guaranteed to make your blood pressure rise. Let’s look at those first – the timing is interesting because this morning, David Frost and 100 staff will fly to Brussels for the first day of the trade negotiations.
Item #1: there’s a new EU Ambassador in town, and he needed to raise his profile by making this demand:
“The new EU ambassador to the UK, João Vale de Almeida, said Brussels and the embassies of the bloc’s 27 member states in London need to step up efforts to protect the rights of the most ‘vulnerable’ in the UK. This includes up to 500,000 EU nationals with criminal records, and thousands of prisoners, who have been added into a list of “vulnerable people” to focus on alongside the elderly.” (link)
Yes – EU criminals are ‘vulnerable’, just like the elderly on whom some of them prey. We cannot possibly be mean to them and not allow them to stay, can we! There’s more:
“Furthermore, there are currently 4,000 EU nationals in British prisons, which the UK ambassador aims to help stay in the country. The push aims to help these “cut off” groups access information to remain in the UK. EU prisoners could remain in the UK for longer should they apply to remain in the UK before the cut off date.” (link)
Criminals must have the right to ask for permission to stay according to that ambassador – doesn’t he have a generous heart! Naively I wonder why he doesn’t feel it’s his task to help them to get back to their EU countries once they’ve done their time.
Item #2: France and the French EU Minister Ms de Montchalin. She was on the Marr show yesterday. This is what she said:
“Amelie de Montchalin insisted the European Union may not be able to agree to a final Brexit trade deal with the UK unless common ground is reached on access to British fishing waters. […] Speaking to Andrew Marr on Sunday, the French minister said: “We linked four subjects. We linked the free trade agreement, conditions of competition, governance of the whole deal and fishing. We feel we cannot agree on any of these subjects if we cannot agree on the whole of the four points.” (link)
Take not of those ‘four subjects’. Read closely. Which one is missing? Correct: “Free Movement”. I suspect that this is deliberate because at this particular time, with the COVID-19 virus spreading across the EU, demanding that nothing must hinder free movement might be just a little bit insensitive. It gets better – here’s what she said next:
“After BBC host Andrew Marr asked again whether a trade deal could fall through because of fisheries, Ms de Monchaline replied: “Yes. We said there are four topics linked in the negotiations. What I want to say on fishing and all the topics – all we played with is emotion, with drama, with passion, with symbols. And we know how to make it a very nasty battle, both sides, where politicians in the UK and in France are put in a very difficult situation. In the end, we will both lose.” (link)
I can’t help but think that Ms de Montchalin has just given ‘carte blanche’ to those French fishermen who have been attacking ours already. This might also be a pointer towards the French authorities turning a blind eye to all those “refugees” crossing the Channel in dinghies. Perhaps someone should tell our Border Force that not turning them away is allowing super-spreaders into our country – those ‘refugees’ are all, allegedly, Iranians where, as we know, there’s a huge outbreak. That however would mean the Home Office Mandarins would have to do something useful rather than keep fighting Ms Priti Patel.
And so to the Department of Health where Mandarins are trying to utilise the COVID-19 outbreak as weapon in tying us to the EU. After all, the government must do everything to ‘keep us safe’. Never mind that this will provide the government with unprecedented means of controlling us, the people.
As the Health Secretary, Mr Hancock, describes the efforts being made to find those who are spreaders-without-symptoms (link, paywalled) – and they are doing their utmost, which is not easy given that sacred NHS cow ‘patient confidentiality’ – a columnist in RemainCentral demands:
“in this individualistic age the government must be prepared to take forceful measures to slow the spread of coronavirus. It is better for us all to be safe — though inconvenienced — than sorry.” (link, paywalled)
This is supported in a parallel report in RemainCentral where we read that Mr Hancock says the government is ruling nothing out, even unto
“[…] following China’s lead in shutting down cities, should the outbreak escalate into a pandemic. “There is clearly a huge economic and social downside to that,” he told the BBC. “But we don’t take anything off the table at this stage because you have to make sure you have all the tools available if that is what is necessary.” (link, paywalled)
So far, so normal – so far, so predictable. But here’s the hammer, reported by the DT’s Remainer-in-chief Peter Foster:
“Downing Street and the Department of Health are locked in a row over post-Brexit access to an EU pandemic warning system in the wake of the coronavirus outbreak. Matt Hancock’s department wanted to retain membership of the Early Warning and Response System (EWRS) as part of the EU-UK future relationship deal, but No 10 said “no”, The Daily Telegraph has learnt. Senior health advisers warned that exiting the EWRS, which has helped coordinate the response to the virus and played a vital role during the bird flu outbreak, would put public health at risk.” (paywalled link)
The reason for No10’s refusal, given the way Barnier ‘negotiates’, makes sense to me:
However, the British negotiating team, which reports to Boris Johnson, did not want to blur the UK’s request for a basic, Canada-style trade deal, it is claimed. Every add-on requested by the UK would risk giving the EU leverage to demand post-Brexit alignment. […] David Frost, the UK’s chief negotiator […] is understood to have personally endorsed the decision not to seek EWRS access.” (paywalled link)
This is what that system is about:
“The web-based system, which was set up in 1988, links the European Commission, governments and key agencies, such as the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), in order to control serious cross-border threats to health. Last month the NHS Confederation, the body that speaks for the entire health service, explicitly warned that the risk from a pandemic “could be heightened without continued cooperation with EU” on health issues.” (paywalled link)
Do other, non-EU countries which are obviously not part of that system not cooperate with us or indeed the EU? There’s more, demonstrating to me that the Remainers in Whitehall will use any means possible to keep us in, by backstabbing Mr Frost as he sets out to negotiate. Surprise – it’s by a ‘senior Whitehall source’:
“When the UK published its negotiation mandate last week, there was no mention of the EWRS, with a non-committal pledge to explore co-operation in “specific and narrowly defined areas where this is in the interest of both sides, for example on matters of health security”. The senior Whitehall source said this pledge explicitly did not amount to seeking access to the EWRS and other bodies. “It was a vague commitment to information sharing, not access or participation in the EU system, which was knocked back,” the source added.” (paywalled link)
So let’s ask – is it a ‘good thing to have’? Undoubtedly. Was it actually helpful in this outbreak, or do the Dept of Health Mandarins just say it is? Why hasn’t the DT author brought evidence that this system has been working well in this outbreak? Why didn’t he ask if we haven’t in fact been kicked out already?
Must we assume, finally, that the EU will refuse to cooperate on such vital issue unless we give them all our fish? Is this what Ms de Montchalin means when she says things could become ‘nasty’?
Meanwhile, take good care of yourselves, take sensible precautions, keep well – and above all