A Tory Said What: March 2021

'The right hon. Gentleman is making, in many parts of his speech, a very strong case for supporting the Bill, but he started by saying that he was not going to support the Bill because of one particular element. The Opposition were going to abstain at the end of last week; then they shifted their position. May I gently suggest to him that a decent way of doing this would be, if necessary, to abstain today, debate the amendments and decide on Third Reading whether the Government have moved at all? Would that not be more logical?'

Sir Iain Duncan Smith (MP for Chingford and Woodford Green), 15th March

In the debate on the second reading of the Police, Crime and Sentencing Bill, the former Tory Party leader criticised Labour for their stance on voting against it due to the police powers surrounding protest contained in the bill. He argued that it made no sense as any changes could be made at the ‘third reading’ after the committee stage. To be honest, I think this one is just a matter of whether you think you could abstract any changes through abstaining at this stage and if the answer is no, then you would have to vote against it. It was announced the committee stage of the bill was delayed for an indefinite time, perhaps because of the reaction it got in Parliament and on the streets outside protesting against it.

'Protests have to be under the rule of law, but the law has to be proportionate…The second is around noise and nuisance; some of the definitions do look quite wide, and I would urge the Government to look at those definitions. The final area I want to mention is the power for the Home Secretary to make regulations about the meaning of “serious disruption to the activities of an organisation…or…to the life of the community.” It is tempting when Home Secretary to think that giving powers to the Home Secretary is very reasonable, because we all think we are reasonable, but future Home Secretaries may not be so reasonable.'

Theresa May (MP for Maidenhead), 15th March

This was the moment in the debate on the bill where the former Prime Minister, Theresa May felt she was uncomfortable with. This is the architect of the ‘hostile environment’ that created the Windrush scandal, if something makes her feel uneasy then perhaps we should all be paying attention.

She also addressed the provisions of powers that the proposed bill would give the Home Secretary. She insists that while Priti Patel may think the powers are safe and suitable in her hands, they may not be in a future Hoe Secretary. Theresa May is a former Home Secretary herself so it is from an angle of personal experience she is saying this. Depending on how you read that comment, it could also be a thinly veiled comment that the current Home Secretary ‘may not be so reasonable’.

Despite her concerns about the Bill, she did not vote against it. Yes, despite the concerns she had she followed the party line and voted for it.

'I accept that there are issues around freedom of speech and the right to assemble, and I think that these will be dealt with during the course of the debate. Overall, this is a good Bill, but Labour Members are going to vote against the protection of the police, the prevention, investigation and prosecution of crime, and important measures on sentencing and release, on public order, on encampments—which bother a lot of my constituents—on youth justice, on secure children’s homes and academies, and on the management and rehabilitation of offenders. They will vote against all of that, yet they agree with much of it. That does not make any sense to me.'

Sir Iain Duncan Smith (MP for Chingford and Woodford Green), 15th March

The former Tory Party leader spoke again in the debate on the Policing Bill. In this extract of what he spoke in parliament and he cannot deny it because it is available on Hansard, I want you to pay attention to that first sentence and a half. ‘I accept that there are issues around freedom of speech and the right to assemble, and I think that these will be dealt with during the course of the debate‘ but, ‘Overall, this is a good Bill’.

In what country would you expect a politician to say something like that. Yes, there are issues with freedom of speech arising from the bill but it is a good bill. Is this really where we are heading as a country? Is this really where the Government want to take the country? In to some form of tin-pot dictatorship that suppresses freedom of speech?

'tonight Conservative Members will vote for tougher sentences for child murderers; Labour Members will be voting against. We are voting to keep rapists in jail longer; Labour is voting against. We are voting for tougher penalties for those who desecrate the memory of the fallen; Labour is voting against. We are voting to keep our streets safer and to tackle violent crime; Labour is voting against. Labour Members are soft on crime, and soft on the causes of crime. They are failing to protect their constituents, and failing to back our police.'

Ruth Edwards (MP for Rushcliffe), 16th March

On the second day of debates on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill, Ruth Edwards was one of several Tory MPs following the line that by virtue of voting against the Bill, Labour are opposed to absolutely everything in it. I think that is an absolutely disgusting line and totally misrepresents the debate. If you listened to the debate around this or seen the minutes on Hansard, you would know full well why Labour was opposed to it was due to the provisions on protests. It was suggested across the two days, all that was needed for Labour support was to make small changes to the Bill.

'I believe passionately in freedom of speech. It is the cornerstone of our democracy. It is sacrosanct. The right to protest and to speak is no more reduced by the Bill than by the existing laws on libel, sedition or public order. As was said yesterday, in the words of John Stuart Mill, “we should all be free to do exactly as we like, provided that we are not impeding someone else’s freedom to do exactly as they like'

Anthony Mangnall (MP for Totnes), 16th March

Slightly later in the debate on the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill came this comment from Anthony Mangnall. He argues that there is no reduction in the rights to protests being proposed in the bill. Has he even read it? The Parliamentary Report into the proposed Bill said, ‘Clause 54 to 56 and 60 would amend police powers in the Public Order Act 1986 so police can impose conditions on protests that are noisy enough to cause “intimidation or harassment” or “serious unease, alarm or distress” to bystanders.’. When it includes the notion of noise, that’s the whole point of protests so of course, it would put a curb on protests.

'My office looks over Parliament Square. I have long complained about the endless demonstrations that take place on this very busy roundabout. It is absolutely ridiculous. It is very difficult to work because of the noise—the drums, horns and loudspeakers. Policing these so-called events costs a huge amount of money and, with Parliament being the seat of democracy, our work should not be disrupted'

Sir David Ames (MP for Southend West), 16th March

Later in the debate and then all the reasons why there had so much public backlash against the proposed bill and why opposition parties were intending to vote against it were so eloquently put by a Conservative MP. As stated by Sir David Ames, he hates the noise made by protestors on Parliament Square. Such an inconvenience, under the proposed Bill, would make for protests to be broken up regardless of if they are peaceful.

What we need to think about here is, just why do protests generate noise? They generate noise so that those attending, those campaigning and protesting for something they passionately care about can be heard. Why do protests often congregate at Parliament Square? So, they can be heard by the MPs whose votes in Parliament matter and can legally enact change. This is an MP who wants to do his job in quiet and peace. I totally get that but he is an MP. If MPs are to govern in the interests of the people then surely they need to hear protests. Would a quiet protest have any impact? More than likely not. Just this one example, this one MP could quite feasibly have any protest around Parliament deemed illegal due to his inconvenience.

'Because, over time as the circumstances change and the threats change, we need to maintain a minimum credible level of deterrent…Why? Because it is the ultimate guarantee, the ultimate insurance policy against the worst threat from hostile states'.

Dominic Raab (MP for Esher and Walton, First Secretary of State and Foreign Secretary), 16th March

The Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab had the morning media round amid reports that the Government were set to announce a rise in the cap on the number of Trident nuclear warheads from the limit of 180 to 260. That was according to a leaked copy of the Government’s integrated Review of security, defence, development and foreign policy. That would bring an end to three decades of gradual nuclear disarmament as the paper pledged £10bn rearmament in response to perceived threats from Russia and China.

Mr Raab was asked on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme when he was asked why he would want to increase the amount. He stressed that it was ‘the ultimate insurance policy’ against hostile states. This is not intended on my part to reignite the debate about whether we should have a nuclear deterrent or not but why would we want to increase it? Are our government trying to prepare us for a new cold war?

Why would we want to increase our nuclear deterrent, spending £10bn on them for something that if we want to survive as a species, we hope is never used? What would we be saying if there were reports of somewhere like North Korea increasing their arsenal? We would be shocked, appalled and worried. Where is that £10bn coming from when nurses are only being offered a 1% pay rise?

Is it even effective? As we have seen in recent years, hostile states to the UK will not try to attack through military means. As the report into Russian interference in British politics eventually showed, potentially hostile states could harm the UK by interfering in the electoral processes and the government could easily turn a blind eye to it. Is anyone knowing that, really going to be fearful of a nuclear weapon? How is that effective?

'I squarely believe we ought to be trading liberally around the world. If we restrict it to countries with ECHR-level standards of human rights, we’re not going to do many trade deals with the growth markets of the future'.

Dominic Raab (MP for Esher and Walton, First Secretary of State and Foreign Secretary), 16th March

These are alarming comments from the Foreign Secretary, which were revealed by The Huffington Post who also published an audio recording. Listening to it, it is clearly the Foreign Secretary’s voice.

The comments were reportedly made in a Q and A session with Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) staff. Continuing, the Foreign Secretary added, ‘We don’t junk whole relationships because we’ve got issues – we have a conversation because we want to change the behaviour.

How much leverage do we think the UK has? The comments seem to imply that all this government are more concerned about trade at any cost, no matter if a country is involved in genocide for example. It may be naïve on my part but in theory, if countries do not trade with countries that do not follow human rights standards then could that not help change their actions?

'Labour are claiming to support rape victims. Yet tonight they will vote against a Bill that sees rapists spend more of their sentence in jail. Shameful.'

Chris Philp (MP for Croydon South and Home Office and Justice Minister), 16th March

The Justice Minister was another Tory to take to social media to attack opposition parties and Labour in particular, for planning to vote against the Governments Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. He criticises Labour for voting against increasing sentences on rapists as if they oppose everything in the bill. That is not their position.

The Minister though was taken apart by The Secret Barrister who given he/she is a lawyer, they know what they are talking about. The Secret Barrister tweeted, ‘At its absolute height, the proposals he refers to would see rapists spend an extra 14 months in prison. The vast, vast majority will not serve a single extra day.’ The account has been vocal about the practicalities of the Bill from the perspective of their field of work whereas the MP’s background is in business sectors such as management consultancy with no legal background. Who is more likely to know what they are talking about and who is trying to play political games?

it’s always easy after the event to say this should have happened a week earlier, a day earlier…but at the time there was such a lock of knowledge

Bim Afolami (MP for Hitchin and Harpenden), 16th March

Bim Afolami was appearing on BBC Politics Live, discussing the early days of the pandemic when he made these comments in defence of the Government. This is a blatant attempt to rewrite history. There were warnings and advice of what to do at the time from the World Health Organisation. They were telling countries to ‘test, test, test’. What was the UK doing? We stopped community testing which we now know was due to a lack of testing capacity and not and were effectively blind to what was happening. We were seeing other counties supposedly two weeks ahead of us going into lockdowns, suspending sports events or not allowing audiences to attending sporting events in a bid to try and stop transmission. What did the UK Government do? They allowed fans from Madrid to attend a football match in Liverpool even though they were banned from attending games at home and also allowed the Cheltenham Festival to go ahead. They also delayed the first lockdown as someone within the government was pushing for an erroneous herd immunity strategy.

There is a false dichotomy between public and private and we have learned over the last year that arguments based on public is good, private is bad are completely wrong. I want to learn from the vaccine rollout which we couldn’t have done without the amazing work of private companies. And I put at the top of the list obviously the pharmaceutical companies but also the GPs and the pharmacists who are at the core of the rollout

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 16th March

The Health Secretary attended the Health Select Committee where he appeared to suggest that the successful rollout of Covid vaccines would not have been possible without private companies. Pzifer and Astra Zeneca are both private companies that have helped develop the vaccines so he has a fair point. However, it is not the private companies that are out there delivering the vaccines, organising people and putting jabs in arms. There may be private companies giving up their property to help and on logistics of getting the vaccines to centres but it is the work of the NHS and volunteers who are doing the actual vaccinating. I may have misunderstood.

The Health Secretary then went on to include ‘GPs and the pharmacists’ at the top of the list of private companies. GPs are not private companies, at least not on the NHS. That sparked the wrath of several doctors One of them, Doctors’ Association UK (DAUK) GP spokesperson Dr Ellen Welch said: ‘The health secretary’s comments that “NHS GPs are the private sector” shows a lack of understanding of the very health service he heads. NHS GPs may be run as private businesses, but they differ from non-NHS private GPs in that they do not compete for patients or for profit. They work to NHS contracts, follow NHS guidelines and see NHS patients.

Dr Welch, who says it so much better than I possibly could, also stressed ‘The success of the vaccine rollout is down to NHS GPs who know their patients and have worked an at accelerated pace alongside their normal work, at very short notice, to make this programme work – and all done on a shoestring, in comparisons to the millions given to private scheme such as Test and Trace.’

'Well, inflation is below 1%, and therefore a proposed 1% pay rise is indeed a pay rise, and that's simply a matter of fact'

Matt Hancock (MP for West Suffolk and Secretary of State for Health and Social Care), 16th March

In the same Health Select Committee, the Health Secretary was asked about the Government’s recommended 1% pay rise for NHS staff. Mr Hancock insisted that it was a pay rise because inflation is below 1%. When I first heard the comment, my instant thought was, is he trolling us?

The latest figure for inflation available is for February and it was 0.4%. So, from that perspective what he is saying is correct. That may be the case when he was speaking but, that is not what the Office for Budget Responsibility anticipate to be the case when it came to the budget. They anticipate inflation to be 1.5% in the period that this pay rise covers so while in cash terms that 1% is a pay rise, but in real terms, it is expected to be a 0.5% cut.

'It is the EU that by trying to erect a barrier down the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and Great Britain that is challenging the spirit of the Northern Ireland Protocol and the Good Friday agreement'.

Dominic Raab (MP for Esher and Walton, First Secretary of State and Foreign Secretary), 16th March

The Foreign Secretary made this huge remark near the end of his speech to the Aspern Forum in which he was stressing Britain as a force for good. He was asked by Pro Irish Congressmen Brendan Boyle if the UK would continue to unilaterally delay the implementation of the Northern Ireland protocol. In response, Mr Raab blamed the EU for threatening the Good Friday Agreement by insisting on a barrier down the Irish Sea. The EU had launched legal action against the UK a few days prior because of the actions of the UK Government.

My god. Britain decided they wanted to leave the EU. The problem with leaving was that there would inevitably be trade barriers being erected somewhere; down the Irish sea or on the island of Ireland. The UK did not want a hard border so where else would a trade barrier be erected. It is almost as if he still thinks we could just leave and be no consequences. Hat everything would be the same.

Maroš Šefčovič, the European commission’s vice-president was not impressed by the comments as he warned that the UK was in danger of tarnishing its reputation. Accusing Dominic Raab of ‘totally misunderstanding’ Northern Ireland, he stressed, ‘If you look through the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland, that’s very clear what we agreed to: that we would have the border control posts built and that is supposed to be built by the end of the last year. These checks and controls will be performed by the UK authorities, meaning the EU law will be fully applicable. That is the the gist of the deal’.

This is the same deal that the Prime Minister sold to the public and Parliament as a good deal for Britain so it is reasonable to assume that they do know what they are doing.

We’re always proud to fly the Union Flag at @mhclg it’s a symbol of liberty and freedom that binds the whole country together

Robert Jenrick (MP for Newark and Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Social Housing), 18th March

During his morning media round, Robert Jenrick had a bit of a jokey moment at the end of his interview on BBC Breakfast with Charlie Stayt and Naga Munchetty. Mr Stayt had made the joke that the flag in the corner of his room looked small, to which Ms Munchetty let out a little laugh.

I did not watch this live but I wish I had. Is it just me who sees Government Ministers with a flag in the background whether they’re at home or in an office and just think, why is it there? What is the point of it being there? We all know we’re British, right. It just feels like needless, over the top nationalism from the Government.

For his part, it seemed the Housing and Communities Secretary had taken it on the chin in good spirit when he posted the above Tweet. Or, at least that’s what I thought. The picture of the Queen: is that really necessary? However, it took a bit of a different twist the following week when his department announced that all Government buildings should fly the Union Jack flag everyday…

'I really wish that Members in this House would take a more temperate approach towards this. The hon. Lady knows full well that the most serious violent and sexual offences, including grievous bodily harm with intent to rape, already carry a maximum sentence of life imprisonment'.

Oliver Dowden (MP for Hertsmere and Secretary of State for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport), 18th March

In the Digital, Media and Sport session in parliament, Oliver Dowden was asked a topical question by Labour MP for Cardiff Central, Jo Stevens when he made this remark. This is what the Labour MP had asked the Culture Secretary…

I thank the Secretary of State for his words. I know that he has a very well-publicised interest in the nation’s heritage, particularly in statues, telling museums and gallery experts how to do their jobs through the policy of “retain and explain”, so perhaps he can explain today what input his Department had into the Government’s legislation this week that provides for longer sentences for hitting statues than those that have been given for raping women‘.

The MP also took to Twitter with a clip of the exchange…

Now, temperate in this context I believe the Minister is using the word is defined showing moderation or self-restraint. I could not detect anything wrong with the way she is asking her question. It sounds a bit condescending as he’s talking down to her and brought back memories of last year when Matt Hancock remarked that Dr Rosenna Allan Khan should watch her ‘tone’.

The Foreign Secretary’s comments were shockingly distorted by low-quality journalism. It is a cheat that journalists sometimes use of editing text or a recording. It was done to Roger Scruton by the New Statesman, and it has now been done to the Foreign Secretary. It is a very cheap level of journalism, and it is not a proper way to behave…We should look at that type of poor-quality online journalism. It is not the sort of thing that would happen in The Times.

Jacob Rees Mogg (MP for North East Somerset and Leader of the House of Commons), 18th March

In the Business of the House session, the Leader of the House of Commons Jacob Rees Mogg made these comments in relation to the comments made by the Foreign Secretary as reported by The Huffington Post. Mr Rees Mogg was on the defensive as he accused the Huffington Post of ‘low-quality journalism’ and that the recording was edited. It was not edited as Arj Singh, the journalists who reported the story took to Twitter to defend himself. They were recorded on tape and were not edited.

Alex Waugh, Executive Editor at HuffPostUK did not hold back in his article. He took Mr Rees Moggs words and turned them on its head. The Minister said you would not see that sort of thing being reported in a paper such as The Times. The Times though did use the quotes and reported on it as well. Perhaps, Mr Rees Mogg should’ve realised what he was saying there. He was also hiding behind parliamentary privilege in accusing them of ‘low-level journalism’. By saying it in Parliament, he could not be subject to legal action.

The following day, Downing Street did not endorse Mr Rees Moggs comments. The Downing Street Spokesperson said ‘These are not comments the Prime Minister would have made’. Personally, I think that is debatable. It is something, however, that Mr Rees Mogg did later apologise for the following week on his podcast as he conceded he was wrong to claim that the recording had been doctored. The record I believe has not yet been changed in Parliament.

'It is self-evidently open to Parliament to delineate the role of the courts in controlling any particular power because, of course, Parliament is sovereign. Parliament can do this by passing an ouster clause—a considered choice that certain subjects are not appropriate for judicial control'.

Robert Buckland (MP for South Swindon, The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice), 18th March

Making a statement to the House of Commons on the Independent review into administrative law, I want to pick up on this sentence from the Justice Secretary. In their 2019 election manifesto, the Government promised this review into the judiciary as they felt the courts were showing too much power (on Page 48). Essentially, they do not want the judiciary to be getting involved in politics as has sometimes been the case in recent years as normal citizens aim to hold their government to account.

That view was tackled by David Anderson QC, a former UK independent reviewer of terrorism legislation. Anderson told The Guardian,A view seems to have taken hold within government that the courts represent a growing and unjustified impediment to the exercise of executive power. Neither of those things is true, as the government’s own panel has concluded after careful examination. Its report highlights the importance of judicial review as a backstop against misuse of executive power. It counsels against tinkering, and suggests only two minor but sensible improvements.’ Additionally, Paul Daly, formerly a senior lecturer in public law at Cambridge University, agreed, ‘Although the UK government may try to suggest otherwise, the headline is that the panel does not think significant reforms of judicial review are appropriate. It is hard to read this [review] as anything other than a defence of the status quo.

So, why are they going ahead with this, acting as though the judiciary is a threat to Parliament? It opens up the suspicion that the Government do not want the courts to be telling them what they can and cannot do after a few high profile cases through the Brexit process. No Government should be above the law.

'I thank the right hon. Gentleman for his question. I think I can deal very shortly with the rather hyperbolic diatribe about the position of this Government and the rule of law. There is absolutely no doubt about our adherence to rule of law principles, as with all Governments who have preceded us and indeed Governments to come'.

Robert Buckland (MP for South Swindon, The Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice), 18th March

After delivering his statement, the Justice Secretary faced questions from Labour’s Shadow Justice Secretary, David Lammy. This was how he started his response to Mr Lammy’s questioning. To be honest, I had to find this a bit hypocritical.

Is this not the same Government that sought to break International law in ‘a specific and limited way’ when they proposed the Internal Market Bill last year? Is this not the same Government that sold arms to Saudi Arabia that could have been used in the conflict despite there being a Supreme Court ruling forbidding it. Is this not the same Government that has found itself facing legal action from the EU because they have yet to fully implement the Northern Ireland Protocol in the Brexit deal they so celebrated? Is this not the same Government that was also found by the courts to have illegally suspended Parliament by misleading the Queen?

So, I beg the question, is this really a Government that takes its obligations to follow the law seriously, or a government that does not want to be challenged by the public? Remember, that prorogation case was brought forward through Gina Miller, a member of the public challenging the legality of what the government, the executive power in the country had done. She also brought the case that the Government needed Parliament to approve to triggering of Article 50 before they could go ahead and start the Brexit process.

No Government should be above the law. However, under these proposals, such a challenge would not be possible as

'There is no change to the next steps of the roadmap…Our progress along the road to freedom continues unchecked'

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister) 18th March

In the latest Downing Street Press Conference, the Prime Minister was addressing the stories that there was going to be a reduction in the number of vaccines being made available in the UK during April. He made the bold claim above when he was asked if the supplies might have an impact on the proposed roadmap out of lockdown given that the first of four aims to continue easing restrictions was, ‘The vaccine deployment programme continues successfully.’

It was a bold statement to make by the Prime Minister. Is this where his tendency to want to be the popular guy delivering the good news comes back to the fore? He had told us that his roadmap out of lockdown was focused on ‘data not dates’. Does that sound like he is focused on the data? No, it sounds like he is committing to the dates and creates the impression again that no matter what, he wants to press on and reopen even if the situation and the data does not support it. I couldn’t help but feel a sense of de ja vue. Here we go again!

‘…the Indian government has not stopped any export…there is a delay… as there is very frequently in vaccine rollout programmes… We don't have any bans on exporting stuff and we will continue to co-operate with our European friends'.

Boris Johnson (MP for Uxbridge and South Ruislip and Prime Minister), 18th March

In the same Downing Street Press Conference, the Prime Minister declared that the Indian government had not stopped any exports of vaccines from getting to the UK. However, that was not true. The Times was reporting that ‘A shipment of five million doses of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, produced by the Serum Institute of India (SII), has been delayed by almost a month after the Indian government paused foreign exports.’ Two days prior to Johnson’s comments, Indian Health Minister Harsh Vardhan told the Indian Parliament that vaccines were not being exported at the “expense of the people of India” and that a balance was being struck.

It does appear odd that the Indian Government did seem to be imposing an export ban on vaccines that could impact the UK vaccination programme. Their Health Minister was right, I feel. Countries need to strike a balance and given they were experiencing a surge in cases themselves it is totally understandable. A week later, it was reported by The Financial Times, that India was imposing a de facto ban on the export of vaccines with The Serum Institute of India being told to halt exports in measures that could last two or three months.

As for the situation between the UK and the EU. Independent fact-checkers Full Fact had their say on the number of vaccine exports between the EU and the UK. Vaccine manufacturers within the EU, as of 15th March had exported a total of 41.6m doses. There were however no figures available for how many vaccines made in the UK (of which on Astra Zeneca produce the vaccines in the UK) had actually been exported to EU countries. Even they concluded the figure is likely to be zero.

'Of course if people are not proud to be British, or of our flag or Queen, they don’t have to live in the U.K. Perhaps they should move to another country they prefer?'

Lia Nici (MP for Great Grimsby), 18th March

Lia Nici, one of the 2019 intake of MPs, responded to a tweet from fellow MP James Sunderland (Bracknell) commenting on the BBC breakfast exchange with Robert Jenrick regarding the flag in the room. It really seems to have gotten under their skin. The MP for Great Grimsby though perhaps went further suggesting if you are not proud to be British, or like the flag of the Queen then you can leave the UK.

Yes, she really did go that far. That extremist, divisive language does nothing but helps flare up tensions and build up a culture war. Perhaps that what they want? But, this is not an appropriate comment for an MP of any comment to make. It is something you would have expected from someone representing UKIP or the BNP. Addressing the comment though, would now have been a good time to remind her that by leaving the EU, the Government of which she is a part of and has supported has taken away the ability for UK citizens to do just that within 27 countries?

If contracts and undertakings get broken, that is a very damaging thing to happen for a trading bloc which prides itself on the rule of law. It would be counterproductive because the one thing we know about vaccine production and manufacturing is that it is collaborative. If we start to unpick that, if the Commission were to start to do that, I think they would undermine not only their citizens' chances of having a proper vaccine programme but also many other countries around the world with the reputational damage to the EU, I think, they would find very hard to change over the short-term'

Ben Wallace (MP for Wyre and Preston North and Secretary of State for Defence), 21st March

The Defence Secretary was speaking to Sky News when he made these comments when discussing the possibility that the EU might start blocking exports of vaccines. He felt that it would do ‘repuational damage’ to the block.

We have heard a fair bit in recent months about for months surrounding their supply of the Astra Zeneca vaccine. It is also important to stress, at this moment the EU had not met to make any decisions yet as Mairead McGuiness told the Andrew Marr show, ‘As the president of the commission said herself, everything is on the table but there is no decision.’ In the event, the EU held off blocking any exports.

Returning to what I wrote on comments by the Prime Minister on March 18th, Independent fact-checkers Full Fact have discussed this issue. Vaccine manufacturers within the EU, as of 15th March had exported a total of 41.6m doses but there were however no figures available for how many the vaccines made in the UK (of which only Astra Zeneca at the time produce the vaccines in the UK) had actually been exported to EU countries concluded the figure was likely to be zero.

Now, if it were on the other foot and it was the UK exporting all these vaccine doses to the EU and getting none in return, you can guarantee you would never hear the end of it from the press. You would be justifiably angry and hurt at the situation so I can understand how it is a frustrating situation for citizens in EU countries. You would feel like you are being mugged. As Ms McGuiness told Marr, ‘European citizens are growing angry and upset at the fact that the vaccine rollout has not happened as rapidly as we had anticipated. Both the EU and the UK have contracts with AstraZeneca and my understanding is the company is supplying the UK but not the European Union. We are supplying the UK with other vaccines, so I think this is just about openness and transparency.

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