Bungling Brit officials missed series of key meetings to join EU medical equipment supply scheme, says Brussels – The Sun

BRUSSELS has insisted the British Government was given "ample opportunity" to join an EU scheme to bulk buy medical equipment as it emerged our bungling officials missed a series of key meetings on it.

The EU Commission today contradicted No10's claims that the UK only failed to take part because it didn't receive an email invitation.

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It said the plan to pool procurement of key kit including ventilators and PPE had been a "recurring topic" at virtual meetings British officials attended.

A spokesman said: "The UK was aware of the work that was ongoing and had ample opportunity to express its wish to participate.

"Why it did not do so is something on which we cannot comment."

The statement will further ignite the debate over withdrawn claims from the Foreign Office's top mandarin Sir Simon McDonald that a "political decision" was made not to take part.

Care minister Helen Whately today stuck to the Government line and blamed the fact that “an email went astray” for the mix-up.

And the PM's spokesman said: "They’re not saying anything they haven’t said before.

"Owing to an initial communication problem, the UK didn't receive an invitation in time to participate in the scheme”.

But officials from the Department of Health repeatedly dialled into meetings of the bloc's Health Security Committee at which the scheme was discussed.

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On several occasions the Commission issued open invitations for capitals to register their interest in getting involved.

British officials took part in meetings on January 1, February 4, March 2, and March 13 at which the bulk buying plan was discussed.

But they also missed crucial gatherings of the committee to which they were invited.

These included a meeting on February 24 at which the Commission invited participating countries to submit their needs by the end of the day.

Sources said that the issue of joint procurement and PPE hadn't been on the agenda sent out in advance.

The UK also missed other other meetings of experts in February and March at which the details of plans for ventilators and PPE were thrashed out.

By the time officials finally got involved on March 19 the first three tenders under the scheme had already been sent out with Britain not included.

A fourth, for lab kit, was issued the same day but the UK didn't take part in that either.

But despite this British officials still missed another crucial gathering on March 25 at which the Commission put out a call for requests for additional joint procurement of kit.

Under the scheme EU countries are ordering £1.3billion of PPE like gloves, gowns, and eye protectors, and up to £700million worth of ventilators.

None of the equipment has yet arrived, but contracts with most suppliers have been signed meaning Member States can now submit orders.

EU officials expect the first batches of personal protection kit to be delivered next month.


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