UK not joining EU ventilator scheme was a "political decision", senior civil servant confirms

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The UK took a "political decision" not to join a European Union scheme for stockpiling and distributing medical equipment including ventilators, the foreign office's top civil servant has confirmed, in comments that contradict what cabinet ministers have previously said.

Both Business Secretary Alok Sharma and Minister for the Cabinet Office Michael Gove have said the UK did not join the scheme because of a communication issue. But Sir Simon McDonald, foreign office permanent under-secretary, told the foreign affairs select committee today that ministers had been fully briefed on the scheme.

“It was a political decision. The UK mission (UKREP) briefed ministers about what was available, what was on offer and the decision is known," he said.

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