When people are at risk they have two choices:
Attitude #1: protect their own and let everyone else go hang.
Attitude #2: spare as much as possible for those less fortunate.
For the last 10 years in this country, the second option has, sadly, become the preferred one by the Government. Austerity hit the poorest and most vulnerable hardest. The wealthy benefited by reduced taxes and property price rises. Public assets were sold off, and local council budgets slashed.
A suffering public sector
The entire public sector suffered - the health service, social care and education in particular. Four years ago, a vanity project by a privileged Prime Minister who had introduced the austerity measures dealt another savage blow to the prosperity of the people of the UK. The 2016 Referendum was won on lies and fear, promising the impossible to fulfil.
Leave ‘won’, and the UK left the EU on January 31st 2020. We all barely had time to catch our breath when Covid-19 engulfed the planet. Different countries are responding in various ways; what of the EU?
UK could still benefit from EU co-operation
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has stressed that the countries of Europe need to be there for each other. She was recently quoted as saying: “History is looking at us at this moment.” “This is the Europe that is present, that is acting for its citizens and member states. This is a Europe that in a time of emergency acts in a non-selfish manner.”
This approach has been extended to the UK which is currently in a transition period until December 31st and therefore contributing financially and in a position to benefit from continued close cooperation with the EU during the crisis. Von der Leyen has been generous-spirited and positive about reaching out to the UK at this time. Our government’s reaction? Isolationist at a time when people are dying like flies and we should explore every option available.
The dog ate my homework
Another source of confusion is whether the UK government did or did not know about the joint EU plan to buy Covid-19 medical supplies. These include ventilators and other kit that the country badly needs. The government came up with a lame excuse that they had missed the deadline for participating in the plan because they had ‘missed the emails’. This stretches the credibility of the government to snapping point. It is as about as believable as ‘the dog ate my homework’ and is at the same level of puerility.
It now transpires that there are official minutes from meetings that started in January where British officials participated in discussions with EU officials on this topic. Missed emails? Give me strength.
Extension, extension, extension
We have until June 30th to formally request an extension to the transition period. Ministers and civil servants are ill and self-isolating. Trade talks are frozen and negotiations are on hold.
I hope that reason will conquer dogma, that common sense will prevail, and the UK Government will accept that the last thing this country needs right now is to fall off the Brexit cliff without having taking action to cushion what will otherwise be an extremely hard landing at a time when the country is on its knees. We need an extension now.