EU forced to admit its claim Britain has vaccine export ban is fake news

The European Commission has conceded a claim made by the president of the European Council alleging Britain of imposing a vaccine export ban is untrue.

Former Belgian prime minister-turned-Eurocrat, Charles Michel made the false claim in a newsletter this week as he attempted to deflect attention away from the bloc’s own vaccine export ban after a shipment of 250,000 AstraZeneca jabs headed for Australia was blocked by Italy.

“The United Kingdom and the United States have imposed an outright ban on the export of vaccines or vaccine components produced on their territory,” he wrote in his newsletter. 

“But the European Union… has simply put in place a system for controlling the export of doses produced in the EU.”

Britain hit back on Wednesday, first with Dominic Raab and then with the prime minister who told MPs that Michel’s claims were simply wrong.

“Let me be clear”, said Boris. “We have not blocked the export of a single Covid-19 vaccine or vaccine components.”

He went further, insisting the UK “opposes vaccine nationalism in all its forms” and said Britain can be proud of its international response to the pandemic.

“We can also be proud of the support the UK has given to the international Covid response, including the £548m we’ve donated to Covax. I, therefore, wish to correct the suggestion from the European council president that the UK has blocked vaccine exports.”

In a dig to Brussels’ rubber-stamping of Mario Draghi’s request to block life-saving vaccines to Australia, Boris called “on our partners to work together to tackle this pandemic.”

When quizzed about the claim on Wednesday, a European Commission spokesperson confirmed that such an outright ban on exports of British vaccines did not exist.

“We know that different countries have got different measures in place – that doesn’t concern vaccines, as far as we understand, coming from the UK,” the spokesman confirmed.

Michel had already been on the backfoot since Tuesday when he tweeted: “Glad if the UK reaction leads to more transparency and increased exports, to EU and third [non-EU] countries.”

And despite the intervention of elected officials such as Britain’s foreign secretary and prime minister on Wednesday, an effort was also made through the diplomatic channels to make it known in no uncertain terms that such accusations by Brussels were not welcome.

EU diplomat Nicole Mannion was sent for Wednesday morning by Sir Philip Barton, the permanent under-secretary of the Foreign Office, who is understoof to have expressed the government’s anger over the comments.