UK Home Secretary Priti Patel has been recorded saying the nation should have closed its borders back in March due to the pandemic.
“‘On [the question of] ‘should we have closed our borders earlier?’ the answer is yes, I was an advocate of closing them last March,” Patel is heard saying in an audio recording obtained by the Guido Fawkes politics website.
The recording was reportedly made during a Zoom call on Tuesday night with the Conservative Friends of India group.
Asked to comment on the audio recording, a Home Office spokesperson did not deny its authenticity and told CNN on Wednesday: “We have strong measures at the border in place which are vital as we roll out the vaccine.”
The government has faced criticism over relaxed measures at the border, which were changed earlier this week. Initially, several countries had travel corridors with the UK, meaning visitors could enter the country without having to self-isolate for 14 days on arrival.
Patel’s reported comments come after the UK closed all the ‘travel corridors’ — effectively shutting the nation’s borders — on Monday for the first time during the pandemic. The decision was made in response to increasing concern over the new variants evolving internationally.
The UK’s Covid-19 death toll – the highest in Europe — currently stands at more than 93,000, according to the government’s dashboard.
Opposition Labour leader Keir Starmer readout Patel’s words from the audio recording in Parliament on Wednesday and asked why Prime Minister Boris Johnson had overruled the Home Secretary on border closures.
Johnson did not dispute what Patel said in the recording.
“I think it was the right honourable gentleman who last March said we didn’t need to close borders but as usual Captain Hindsight has changed his tune to events,” Johnson said.
“We are… in the middle of a national pandemic and this country is facing a very, very grave death toll and we are doing everything we can to protect the British public.”
Johnson joked: “I’m delighted [Starmer] now praises the Home Secretary, a change of tune.”
Starmer repeated the question, asking again why Johnson had overruled the Home Secretary.
Johnson responded: “We’ve instituted one of the toughest border regimes in the world and it was only last March that he and along with many members of his party were continuing to support an open borders approach.”
In an on camera interview on Wednesday, Patel’s comments were again put to Johnson. Asked whether Britain should have closed its borders last March, he said: “There’s plenty of chance to look back at what decisions were taken when and what approach was taken back in March last year… but what I can say today is that the UK has amongst the toughest border regimes in the world.”
CNN has contacted the Conservative Friends of India for comment.
Source: CNN | News Colony