Today I urged Michael Gove to take a practical approach to co-operation with the European Union in tackling global health crises, like the covid-19 pandemic. Speaking for Labour’s front bench, I welcomed Government involvement in an EU-led international effort to find a coronavirus vaccine. He acknowledged that the Government was getting behind the EU initiative, despite some of the Conservative-supporting press claiming it had been launched by Boris Johnson.
I went on to challenge him to confirm reports over the weekend that the Government are now seeking to maintain participation in the EU’s Early Warning and Response System for pandemics – after the Daily Telegraph reported in 1 March that No 10 had rejected a Department of Health request to be part of the scheme. Membership of the EWRS is also backed by NHS Providers and so it was disappointing that he failed to provide an answer.
Changing their position on participation in the European Medicines Agency would also demonstrate a real intention from the Government to put the country’s health interests before their antipathy to European institutions. So it was disappointing that he rejected my proposal on the EMA at a time when the benefits of working together are clearly than ever.
Read our exchange below.
Q: Paul Blomfield, Shadow Minister for Brexit and EU Negotiations
“It was good to hear reports this morning that the Government is getting behind the EU-led international initiative to find a coronavirus vaccine.
So, given this approach, can the Secretary of State confirm reports that the Government are now seeking to retain participation in the EU’s Early Warning and Response System for pandemics, as requested by the Department of Health and NHS Providers?
And will they look again at participation in the European Medicines Agency?”
A: Michael Gove, Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster
“We will co-operate not just with our European neighbours but with other countries in the fight against Covid-19. He’s right to say the Prime Minister is joining the call today in order to ensure that we can support the effort to secure a vaccine. The effort to secure a vaccine is necessarily an international one.
We will of course look pragmatically at how we can co-operate with our European friends and partners.
But participation in the European Medicines Agency would involve, certainly at the moment, the acceptance of the European Court of Justice oversight and that’s not something that the British people voted to do.”