THE SNP have warned that the Tory Government’s “reckless” Brexit push may endanger the ability of the UK to access a coronavirus vaccine.
The party said Westminster’s top brass were allowing “narrow Tory ideology to trump the health and well-being of our citizens” in pushing ahead with leaving the EU despite the pandemic.
The warning comes after Stephen Foots, the chief executive of UK firm Croda International, said that borders which are “free from friction” are “crucial” to the delivery of the potentially pandemic-ending technology.
Croda International has been involved with Pfizer-BioNTech over its potential vaccine, which has been reported to be 90% effective.
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Foots added that a lack of an agreement or border disruption is “the last thing we need”.
He said: “We must make sure that the vaccine doesn’t have any problems getting into the UK, into the supply chain, or even the practical issues of refrigerant technologies and everything else.
“There could be products that are needed for the UK that are sourced abroad, so making sure that we are free from friction at the borders is a crucial step for the vaccine.”
Commenting, the SNP’s shadow health spokesperson at Westminster, Dr Philippa Whitford MP, said the UK Government must put the wellbeing of its citizens ahead of “ideological Brexit plans”.
Whitford said: “The news around a possible vaccine for Covid-19 is to be welcomed. However, the stark warnings raised by the chief executive of a firm involved in its development must serve as a wake-up call for the UK Government over its Brexit plans.
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“It is absolutely critical that the UK Government puts the interests and well-being of people across the UK ahead of their ideological Brexit plans – and it would be unforgivable if those plans led to any delay or difficulty in rolling out the vaccine in the UK.
“There are already concerns about maintaining the supply of critical medicines, such as insulin and medical radioisotopes. Boris Johnson’s reckless plans to run down the clock threaten serious harm to the economy, people’s livelihoods and even their health.
“I urge the UK Government to heed the warnings and end its hostile approach to Brexit talks, and instead work constructively with our EU partners to prevent border disruption, delays and chaos for businesses.
“We cannot allow narrow Tory ideology to trump the health and well-being of our citizens.”
Asked about the issue at a Downing Street press conference this evening, UK Business Secretary Alok Sharma said: “This is an issue across many sectors, but that is precisely why we have been investing hundreds of millions of pounds in terms of border infrastructure, and we’ve been investing in grants for customs intermediaries.
“It’s why we are making a very big effort to communicate with businesses to make sure that they are ready, so that they can get customs clearances done.
“All of that work is ongoing. If we all get prepared, we will be in absolutely the right place post-transition.”