The EU has placed a de facto ban on vaccine exports to the UK. In a transparent bid to up the pressure on UK-based AstraZeneca for more doses of Covid jabs to the troubled bloc, Brussels has unveiled tighter controls on the flow of vaccines to outside markets. 92 countries have been nominated for exemption from the new measures, the UK is not one of them.
The EU has presented the new measures as necessary to build “trust, transparency and responsibility.” However, a source told the Sun, the reality is much more nefarious. “It’s not a monitoring system, it’s a blocking mechanism,” said the source.
To try and identify any companies sending vaccine over to Britain, Brussels has demanded shipment logs dating back three months from vaccine manufacturers.
EU health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides barely disguised the EU’s real intent, telling reporters: “We’re not protecting ourselves against any specific country, and we’re not in competition or a race against any specific country.”
Kyriakides’ colleague Didier Reynders cranked it up a notch, telling Belgian radio the EU was now in a “vaccine war” against Britain.
“Solidarity is an important principle of the EU. With Brexit, it’s clear that the UK doesn’t want to show solidarity with anyone,” added Reynders.
Croatia’s prime minister Andrej Plenkovic did not mince his words either, accusing Britain of “vaccine hijacking”.
“Some countries didn’t have a united approach like we in the EU and have obviously offered more money for vaccine doses.”
Meanwhile, increasingly desperate EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen ramped up the pressure on AstraZeneca to meet its supply commitments, agreed with EU after other major customers like the UK had signed firmer deals.
Von der Leyen said: “In the contracts, two production facilities in Great Britain are also mentioned, which are intended for the production of the vaccine for the EU. How you manage it is up to you.
“There are binding orders and the contract is crystal clear. The phrase ‘best effort’ does not exist. There are clear delivery quantities that are in the contract.
“What irritated us was that, unlike the other companies, AstraZeneca very suddenly announced that it was drastically reducing its agreed deliveries for the first quarter and did not provide understandable reasons why. Now we want clarity on that.”
Outraged Tory MPs have spoken out against the ban.
Party grandee, Sir John Redwood said: “The EU’s bad conduct over vaccines is disruptive to the world effort against the pandemic.
“Astra Zeneca is part of the answer to the virus, not the problem.”
Fellow Eurosceptic Peter Bone told Talk Radio: “They’re becoming bullies now. They’re trying to cover up for their own failures and as a bully they are charging around.
“Of course, the way to deal with bullies is to stand up to them and AstraZeneca and the other vaccine companies are standing up to them.
“All bullies are cowards and they will back down. If they think that by making a lot of noise and trying to jump the queue, they can cover up for their failures I think they’re gravely mistaken.”
And former Brexit minister, MP David Jones scolded the European Commission for resorting to blackmail simply because it has a dispute with one company over the provision of Covid-19 vaccines.
“How is that in any sense remedied by imposing a ban on Pfizer products being exported to the UK? They are behaving like playground bullies by trying to stop the UK from benefiting from the Pfizer vaccine. This is a crazy way of behaving.”
Explaining the upping of the ante by the EU, Kyriakides told a news conference the measures were being put in place to ensure EU citizens had access to vital jabs.
“This approach is built on trust, transparency and responsibility,” said Kyriakides.
“Commitments need to be kept, and agreements are binding. Advance purchase agreements need to be respected.
“Today, we have developed a system which will allow us to know whether vaccines are being exported from the EU. This increased transparency will also come with a responsibility for the EU to authorise, with our members states, these vaccine exports.”
A European Commission spokesperson added: “The protection and safety of our citizens is a priority and the challenges we now face left us with no choice but to act.”