Government snub for £9BN EU health plan questioned by Peers
Peers have asked ministers to explain a decision not to join a planned £9billion European Union scheme to tackle cross-border health threats such as COVID-19.
The EU4Health action plan to boost resilience and capability to respond to major health threats “would benefit Britain”, according to the House of Lords European Union Committee.
The committee has called on the government to clarify why it decided “not to pursue future participation” and has urged ministers to “consider the benefits of working with the EU to improve health outcomes in the UK”.
The programme, which allows countries outside the EU to take part, would see funding increased from £404million to £9.2billion to strengthen health services and boost the availability and affordability of medicine and equipment including PPE (personal protective equipment).
The committee is “unclear” why the government intends to address some of the issues covered in the proposals in future relationship Brexit negotiations instead.
In a letter to health minister Edward Argar the committee said that the new scheme is “larger and has a more significant cross-border focus than could have been anticipated when making that original decision.”
The committee asked if investment at home will be increased to ensure that Britain remains a world leader in health science and innovation and whether researchers affected by the decision had been consulted.
Lord Teverson, EU Committee member and chair of the EU Environment sub-committee, said:
“We regret the government's decision not to participate in the proposed EU4Health programme, made before the proposals were published.
“A number of the actions would be beneficial to the UK in dealing with serious cross-border health threats.
“We believe that continued collaboration in this field is critical, and have particular concerns regarding a loss of cooperation on clinical trials, a smaller population pool for health research on matters such as vaccines, and reduced leverage in procurement exercises for medical equipment such as PPE.”