Brexit: EU 'very much a project of white privilege', says Government minister

Lord Syed Kamall
Lord Syed Kamall

Tory frontbencher Lord Kamall made the remark as he hailed the advantage of 'being open to the world and global Britain'

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The European Union is “very much a project of white privilege”, a minister has told Parliament.

Tory frontbencher Lord Kamall, a former MEP, made the remark as he hailed the advantage of “being open to the world and global Britain”.

As such he said he shared the frustration felt by some peers over the application of different Covid-19 self-isolation rules for overseas students compared to their British counterparts.

It led to warnings at Westminster that people could be put off coming to the country.

Lord Kamall, who acknowledged it was “not great for our international, global outlook” and was pushing the NHS to tackle the issue, which he said arose from the inability to validate the vaccination data of foreign visitors.

He was responding to a question in the Lords over why fully vaccinated international students did not have to self-isolate on arrival in the UK, but were required to do so if a close contact developed coronavirus.

Lord Kamall told the upper chamber: “Our current system for validating the vaccination status of close contacts relies on checking against records in the NHS national immunisation management system.

“We do not have access to equivalent records for those vaccinated overseas. We recognise the pressing need to resolve this issue as soon as possible and are urgently exploring a number of different options to extend the existing exemptions to contacts who have been vaccinated overseas.”

Labour peer Baroness Royall of Blaisdon, who is principal of an Oxford college, said: “The minister talks of urgency but we have been waiting since the beginning of September for a resolution to a problem that I believe is rather small but which clearly disadvantages international students.

“To me, it feels slightly xenophobic and as though to date the Government have been intransigent.

“I know that Public Health England agrees that the policy is not logical in any sense or form, so why do international students have to self-isolate for 10 days when our own students from the UK do not? This disadvantages the international students and puts people off coming to this country.”

In reply, Lord Kamall said: “As someone whose family comes from outside the EU, who has taught in universities and who recognises the great asset that there is and the great advantages that there are in being open to the world, and global Britain, I share her frustration.

“Yes, we have left the EU, which is very much a project of white privilege, and moved to a more global outlook. It is really important that we now focus on the world generally.”

He added: “The issue is quite technical at the moment. One of the things needed for the test and trace system to work is that you need access to the underlying data and verification. We are looking at a number of different options for how to achieve that.”

The minister was also pressed over the need for the booster jab to be prominently displayed on the NHS app, as previous doses were.

It follows concerns the information is “hidden away” on the mobile platform, while a number of countries are requiring proof of a recent vaccine as the effectiveness of the original injections wane.

Labour frontbencher Baroness Thornton said: “It is very important that the NHS app shows the booster as soon as possible, because it is going to cause a lot of trouble for Christmas travel.”

Lord Kamall said: “I welcome questions, particularly on getting the booster on the app, because when I am talking to officials in the department and the NHS it shows how important it is that we do this as quickly as possible.”