What is the EU joint purchasing program?
The British government signed the EU joint purchasing agreement in 2014 after the H1N1 pandemic highlighted weaknesses in access and purchasing power by EU countries to obtain vaccines and pandemic drugs.
Under the Brexit withdrawal agreement, the government has the right to participate until December 31, 2020. The objective of the program is to allow participants to act together as a buyer of large blocks, by guaranteeing better prices and opening the way to the front of the queue in times of shortage.
What volume were the purchases made this time?
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the EU has launched four tenders for medical equipment and supplies. He invited companies to provide gloves and surgical gowns on February 28, personal protective equipment (PPE) for eye and respiratory protection on March 15, as well as medical respirators and respiratory equipment on the same day. A final call for companies to supply them with laboratory equipment, including test kits, was launched on March 19. The total value of the PPE purchased is around 1.5 billion euros (£ 1.3 billion). The EU ceiling for fan purchases is € 790 million. The first PEP tender on February 28 failed due to a lack of suitable suppliers. It was relaunched on March 12. Since then, all four tenders have successfully found companies ready to supply the goods on the scale and quality required. The delivery schedule varies. Part of the PPE is expected soon. There is a longer deadline for fan deliveries, with EU member states warning that it could take up to a year for all machines to arrive.
Why was the UK not involved?
When it emerged last month that the UK was not involved in the wholesale purchase of fans in the EU despite being aware of its existence and purpose, a spokesman for Downing Street said the UK did not join because the country was “not in the EU”. This line changed within 24 hours and a communication error was caused. An e-mail from the European Commission inviting the United Kingdom to join has been sent to an obsolete and missing address. When the Guardian reported last week that there had been multiple opportunities to participate in the purchase of PPE, as well as fans, more details had emerged on the communications error. The United Kingdom, it was said, did not receive an invitation to sit on the steering group of the EU joint procurement agreement until March 19. At that time, the four markets had been organized.
What has happened in the past 24 hours?
The Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sir Simon McDonald, categorically contradicted the explanation for the withdrawal of the United Kingdom during an appearance before a select committee of the House of Commons. “It was a political decision,” said McDonald. “The British mission in Brussels informed the ministers of what was available, of what was proposed and the decision is known.” Comments have raised concerns that the Brexit ideology has been brought to the forefront of the practical aspects of saving lives.
In less than an hour, Hancock denied the existence of a “political decision.” Shortly after, McDonald’s published an official correction in a letter to the chairman of the select foreign affairs committee, Tom Tugendhat. “The ministers were not informed by our mission in Brussels of the project and no political decision has been made as to whether or not to participate,” McDonald wrote.