The EU has suffered yet another vaccine-related hit to its reputation over fake claims Britain has imposed an “outright ban” on exports of Covid jabs.
The accusation was levelled by European Council president Charles Michel who was backed up by the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen. Britain’s foreign secretary, Dominic Raab immediately fired back, denouncing Michel’s comments as “completely false”.
The EU has not been able to dig itself out of this latest hole however, scrambling to find evidence for Michel’s incendiary statement, an official clarified that British measures were “tantamount to an export ban”.
Pressed further for evidence, the EU official said the “information [was] provided to us by the Commission”, the Express reports. Michel has since tried to water down his comments, insisting there are “different ways” of putting in place export restrictions.
The EU Commission denied not only that this information was passed onto Michel at the Council, but also that it didn’t even exist.
Michel made the false claim in a newsletter trying to deflect heat currently being directed at Brussels for ramping up its export measures by banning a massive shipment of AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia, sparking international condemnation.
“I am shocked when I hear the accusations of vaccine nationalism against the EU,” wrote Michel.
“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, the region with the largest vaccine production capacity in the world, has simply put in place a system for controlling the export of doses produced in the EU,” he said.
He added: “Europe is not lagging behind in a sprint, but is well placed to lead the field in a marathon.”
Brussels’ controlling mechanism involved piling on extra red tape, not only onto vaccine manufacturers but suppliers. It also gave the EU the power to stop exports altogether, which it took advantage of for the first time last week in a joint-decision with Italian government, withholding hundreds of thousands of Covid jabs originally destined for Australia.
Previously, Canada had been hit with supply disruption due to the EU measure squeezing the supplies of vaccine ingredients.
Dominic Raab pulversied the EU’s shoddy claims: “The UK Government has not blocked the export of a single COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine components.
“Any references to a UK export ban or any restrictions on vaccines are completely false.
“We are all facing this pandemic together.”
A UK source later told the Telegraph, the EU had tried to perform a “distraction exercise”.
Michel responded to the foreign secretary’s intervention over Twitter: “Glad if the UK reaction leads to more transparency and increased exports, to EU and third [non-EU] countries.”