Restrictions should be dropped “completely” once the top nine priority groups have been vaccinated, a senior Conservative MP has said as he warns ministers against “changing the goal posts”.
Mark Harper, former chief whip and chairman of the Covid Recovery Group (CRG), said he feared the goal posts for reopening society were being shifted beyond the original focus of NHS pressure and daily fatalities.
“I think what people are worried about is you then keep hearing other things creeping into the argument about the rate of infection and other things keep being thrown into the debate which sounds like it’s changing the goal posts,” he told the BBC’s World at One.
“I think we should keep focused on protecting the vulnerable, reducing deaths and hospitalisations and the pressure on the health service – and those are the two things I think that need to drive opening up.”
Of all the charges made against Brexiteers, the notion that we ‘don’t understand the modern world’ is the one that some Remainers have most often returned to; their equivalent of the boxer’s stinging jab that relentlessly wears down an opponent. In a global system increasingly dominated by a handful of big players with huge populations and land mass – the US, China, India, Russia – being a medium-sized nation in Europe without the umbrella of the EU was supposed to be a mug’s game.
In the European Parliament, that arch-federalist Guy Verhofstadt would often refer to the countries of Europe as ‘dwarfs’ who needed to band together to compete in such a world. We all remember Barack Obama trotting out a similar thesis during our referendum campaign, delighting David Cameron’s Downing Street team by saying that Britain would be at the ‘back of the queue’ in trade talks because he would look to deal with ‘a big bloc, the European Union’ first.
When Boris Johnson decided last spring to stay out of the European Union’s Covid vaccine programme out came the jab again from the usual suspects. The Prime Minister was accused of being ready to sacrifice British lives on the altar of a hopelessly outdated Little England ideology – ‘silly Brexit games,’ said Lib Dem leader Sir Ed Davey. The EU’s massive combined purchasing-power was going to leave us scrabbling about for crumbs.
The Brexiteer answer to such charges has always been that, in fact, there are many advantages to acting as an independent nation state – quicker decision-making processes, the ability to pursue national priorities, more accountability to the public. These arguments have often been summed up by deployment of the word ‘nimble’.
Well, ‘nimble’ has just beaten ‘big bloc’ hands down on the most important post-Brexit issue Britain has yet faced and is likely to face for many months – the provision of life-saving and economy-saving vaccines.
Meanwhile, the European Commission has compounded its hideously embarrassing, ultra-bureaucratic failure to secure its own supplies by resorting to bullying, tantrums and ultimately full-on meltdown in the form of its triggering (and subsequent u-turn) of Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to implement a hard border.
Activity in the UK manufacturing sector remained solid in May, and output is expected to rise strongly in the next three months, the latest CBI Industrial Trends Survey shows.
Output volumes continued to grow at the same rate as in the previous two months, and with stronger growth anticipated for the coming quarter.
The survey of 437 manufacturers found that total order books remained well above the long-run average. Export orders fell below normal, mainly driven by the chemicals and automotive sectors, but remained strong by historical standards.
Do you agree with the CBI assessment?
I am continuing to see strong growth across the sectors I coach. Are you feeling the effect as the whole supply chain gets the bounce from larger businesses?