Michael Gove’s trip to Israel to study the country’s ‘green pass’ system isn’t diminishing the impression among Conservative MPs that the UK government has already made up its mind on vaccine passports. A number who I have spoken to are taking the lack of communication from their party whips as a sign that the policy will be going ahead, as there is no point in canvassing opinion on a matter if the Prime Minister is going ahead with it regardless of the feedback he gets.
Some MPs who are opposed to the domestic use of what ministers are currently calling ‘vaccine certification’ are concerned that the way No. 10 plans to get the vote through the Commons is by making it about both international and UK use. ‘I would find it hard to vote against something that we clearly need on an international level,’ says one would-be rebel. ‘And so that’s how they’ll get it through. They won’t split the vote up, because why would they do that?’
If this is the approach that the government takes, it shows how low the level of trust is between ministers and many Conservative backbenchers at present. This hasn’t been helped by mixed messages on what domestic vaccine passports might look like. Some MPs have been assured that the policy won’t be required for pubs and other hospitality venues while also hearing from breweries in their own constituency that industry bodies have been told to prepare for mandatory passports in the coming months. Once again, this means MPs don’t feel they can really take their colleagues in government at their word.