In my view, it is vital that the UK maintains its current access to the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control, which is an important network of cross-border health expertise. It is also a source of valuable data—there is probably not a day goes by when I do not look at the data on its website, because it is extremely important. However, the centre is important for many more reasons than that.
It is a fact that a no-deal Brexit will jeopardise that access, which is highly concerning as we continue to fight the Covid pandemic. The Scottish Government is working with the UK Government to maintain access and to ensure that practical arrangements are in place as a stopgap in the event of no deal.
The consequences of ending the Brexit transition period during a pandemic were predictable and predicted. Those concurrent risks, which add up to a perfect storm, are starting to become real before our very eyes. That was evident in yesterday’s COBRA meeting as we were dealing with all the implications of the closure of the border that are happening now, with Brexit and stockpiling plans being activated, which is a situation that we may face again in just a few days’ time.
I really hope that, although the UK Government yesterday rejected the call for an extension, it will think again and act responsibly. Businesses and citizens need, preferably, a deal now—everybody does. More important, they need a period in which we will not have any self-inflicted disruption, given that we have so much inevitable and unavoidable disruption to deal with.