If you were hoping that the UK’s Covid inquiry would give us a deeper insight into our handling of the pandemic, then now is the time to abandon that hope. Yesterday, within hours of the inquiry setting off, a familiar culprit had already been identified for Britain’s Covid death toll. Spoiler alert: it’s the very same thing the Remoaning middle classes have blamed for literally everything that has gone wrong since 2016. That’s right – Brexit.
‘The pandemic struck the United Kingdom just as it was leaving the European Union’, noted the inquiry’s counsel, Hugo Keith KC, yesterday. The preparations undertaken to mitigate the supposedly ‘severe consequences’ of Brexit ‘crowded out and prevented some or perhaps a majority’ of preparations for the pandemic, he said. According to the learned KC, it is ‘clear’ that the British people’s democratic decision to leave the EU left us vulnerable when Covid struck in 2020.
Keith wasn’t the only one to make this claim yesterday. Claire Mitchell KC, speaking on behalf of Covid Bereaved Families for Justice Scotland, also told the inquiry that ‘the effects of Brexit’ stymied Britain’s ability to cope with Covid. In short, as one hysterical #FBPE tweeter put it, ‘Brexit killed people’. Democracy equals death.
According to Hugo Keith KC, the ‘evidence so far’ suggests that Brexit preparations hindered pandemic preparedness. But what evidence might this be? No evidence had been presented in the public hearings when he said this – his was the first address to the inquiry. In fact, he was later contradicted by Neasa Murnaghan KC, a lawyer for the Northern Ireland Department of Health, who said Brexit planning had actually been ‘advantageous’ for the pandemic.
Indeed, that was the impression given in Whitehall in spring 2020. Civil servants – not exactly Vote Leave partisans – told the Huffington Post that Brexit planning left Whitehall in a better position to source medicines if supply chains ever broke down, and had led to a ‘load of stockpiling’ that might have come in handy.
In any case, perhaps a more significant factor, which was also raised by the inquiry yesterday, might have been that the UK was preparing for the wrong type of pandemic. According to the 2019 Global Health Security Index, the country best prepared for a pandemic, in terms of ‘rapid response and mitigation of the spread of an epidemic’, was actually the UK. But, at the time, the biggest risk was considered to be pandemic influenza – not a coronavirus. Meanwhile, it’s clear that those East Asian countries that had experience of the SARS pandemic in the 2000s fared far better with Covid than we did. Does the inquiry’s learned counsel seriously believe that remaining in the EU would have stopped Britain (and much of the Western world) from planning for the wrong kind of pandemic?
No, blaming Brexit for Britain’s Covid nightmare is absurd. This is an idiotic #FBPE talking point. It is a grotesque and ghoulish attempt to weaponise the deaths of thousands of people to the ends of undermining democracy. The Covid inquiry has debased itself simply by entertaining it. We need a serious reckoning with the pandemic and lockdown – not this Remoaner nonsense.
To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.