The British authorities is quietly searching for access to the European Union’s pandemic warning system, regardless of early reluctance to cooperate on health after Brexit, the Guardian has discovered.

The UK is searching for “something akin to membership” of the EU’s early warning and response system (EWRS), which has performed a important position in coordinating Europe’s response to the coronavirus, in addition to to earlier pandemics resembling chook flu. According to an EU supply, this might be “pretty much the same” as membership of the system.

The authorities’s enthusiasm in the privateness of the negotiating room contrasts with noncommittal public statements. Detailed negotiating objectives revealed in February merely acknowledged that the UK was “open to exploring cooperation between the UK and EU in other specific and narrowly defined areas where this is in the interest of both sides, for example on matters of health security”.

Health was not even talked about in the government’s written statement to Parliament, other than a reference to prescription drugs. Meanwhile, the Daily Telegraph reported on 1 March that No 10 had blocked the Department of Health’s request to be half of the EWRS.

A authorities spokesperson didn’t reply to a query about whether or not the UK was searching for a type of membership or participation in the EWRS, however referred again to the February negotiating goals.

In personal, the coronavirus, which had claimed a minimum of 26,771 lives in the UK by Thursday, seems to have altered authorities considering.

“There was not much appetite from the UK at the beginning,” mentioned the EU supply, referring to cooperation on health. “That’s been corrected. They are keen and they are keen to be seen to be keen. Both sides want close cooperation.”

However, the EU is just not ready to supply the UK full membership of the EWRS, a web based platform arrange in 1998 the place public authorities share details about health emergencies.

Instead, EU officers suggest to “plug the UK into” the system when a pandemic emerges, related to preparations for different non-EU international locations.

Health safety doesn’t characteristic in the UK negotiating textual content despatched in personal to the EU’s chief negotiator, Michel Barnier, though EU officers have obtained a “non-paper” outlining authorities goals on health.


In one other signal of rising British curiosity in European cooperation, the Guardian has established that the UK attended all 5 of the EU’s health safety committee conferences on the coronavirus pandemic in April, an ideal attendance file, in contrast with a 70% British presence between 17 January and 30 March.

During the April conferences, officers mentioned lockdown exit methods and launching a joint procurement scheme on therapeutics in intensive care. No choice has been taken to launch this bulk-buying programme.

The Guardian first reported in March that the UK was not collaborating in any of the EU’s 4 procurement schemes, lacking bulk-buying efforts on private protecting tools for medical employees, ventilators and testing equipment – despite having attended relevant meetings.

Meanwhile, amongst NHS senior managers there may be nervousness that Brexit talks threat “significant elements of health being forgotten about”, mentioned Layla McCay, the worldwide director of the NHS Confederation.

“NHS organisations have been stood up and stood down and stood up again for potentially a no-deal Brexit,” she mentioned. “If a quite thorough future relationship for health matters is not on track come June, then the NHS is going to have to start to prepare for specific disruption next year as a result of Brexit, and it will have to do so while also facing both winter and coronavirus challenges. It will be a significant extra ask.”

British membership of the EWRS and broader EU health community “strengthen our ability to respond as effectively as possible” to health emergencies, McCay added.

The UK authorities spokesperson mentioned: “The security and safety of our residents is a high precedence. The UK is prepared to talk about how our residents may be saved secure and profit from continued worldwide cooperation on health safety following the top of the transition interval, the place it’s in our mutual curiosity.

“Any such arrangements must align with the fundamental principles of respecting the UK’s political and economic independence, recognition of the UK and EU’s status as sovereign equals, and ensuring the UK has control over its own laws.”

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