Katy Balls Katy Balls

Backlash builds over vaccine passports

As Boris Johnson prepares to deliver an update on Monday on government plans for immunity passports and international travel, the Prime Minister is already facing a parliamentary backlash. More than 70 MPs have voiced their concern over the use of ‘divisive and discriminatory’ immunity IDs in England. The cross-party group opposing ranges from Iain Duncan Smith and Steve Baker to Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott. 

While the government insists no final decision has been taken, the expectation in government is that immunity IDs are coming. MPs on the various ‘listening exercises’ Michael Gove has hosted this week, came away thinking immunity passports are a done deal – no matter what they make of them. There’s also a sense that they could underpin any easing. MPs interested in the social distancing review are being directed to the immunity certificate review. This suggests ministers view the way to ending social distancing as showing one’s Covid status.

As for what Boris Johnson will say come Monday, it’s reported that the first stage will be trials using passports for mass events. If successful, it could then be rolled out further. But when it comes to the Prime Minister’s announcement, he isn’t the only one to keep an eye on – the other is Keir Starmer. The Labour leader told the Telegraph this week that vaccine passports were ‘un-British’. However, he stopped short of actually opposing them in the here and now. Labour sources then suggested he may oppose them in about nine months’ time. Were Starmer to come out against the government proposals, Johnson will have a fight on his hands getting the plans through. 

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