Merkel ally demands ‘trade war’ with Britain if vaccines are not shipped from UK to EU

Boris Johnson addresses EU ‘demand’ for coronavirus vaccines

Brussels is demanding the UK-based Pharma firm uses tens of millions of Covid jabs made in Britain to supply the Continent. And MEP Peter Liese, of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s party, urged the bloc’s decision-makers to ramp up the pressure on the company and the Government. He suggested a block on all exports of the Pfizer jab to Britain if AstraZeneca doesn’t divert doses from the UK. 

The German warned the firm and the UK to “think twice” about treating Europeans as “second class”.

He fumed: “People in the United Kingdom are vaccinated with a very good vaccine produced in Europe, supported by European money. 

“If there is anyone thinking that European citizens would accept that we give this high-quality vaccine to the United Kingdom and would accept to be treated as second class by a UK-based company. 

“I think the only consequence can be to immediately stop the export of BioNTech and then we are in the middle of a trade war. So the company and the UK better think twice if they really want to stop all the export.”

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Meanwhile, Brussels is at war with vaccine maker AstraZeneca, demanding the firm diverts doses from Britain to supply the bloc.

Eurocrats were pouring over their contract with the UK-based drugs giant after a row over the supply of Covid jabs to the bloc descended into acrimony.

Senior Commission officials believe the firm could be in breach of the terms it signed up to after supplying European-made doses to the UK.

European Commissioner for Health, Stella Kyriakides, said the EU’s contract with AstraZeneca names two factories in the UK and not using them to supply the EU is “against the letter and the spirit of our agreement”.

She added: “In our contract it is not specified that the UK has priority because it signed earlier. There is no such clause.”

Asked if the EU expects AstraZeneca to divert doses from Britain, she replied: “The UK factories have to deliver.”

EU chiefs are furious that millions of Britons have received jabs while European capitals are struggling to roll out their own programmes.

Ms Kryiakides insisted Britain should have “no priority” access to doses of vaccines.

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She has instructed eurocrats to explore potential legal avenues to force AstraZeneca to begin shipping UK-made jabs to the Continent.

Ms Kryiakides told a news conference: “On the doses being shifted, we expect the doses that are in an advanced purchasing agreement to be delivered to the EU.

“In this sense, it is important that we clarify this because there was no hierarchy or order in terms of the four factories.”

Brussels is also pushing for the publication of its contract, arguing an interview with AstraZeneca’s CEO Pascal Soriot in which he said the firm only has to make “best efforts” to supply the bloc.

EU officials believe they could slap the drugs giants with financial penalties or legal action, including the possible termination of its contract, for non-compliance.

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Boris Johnson addresses EU ‘demand’ for coronavirus vaccines

Britain has raced ahead of the bloc’s vaccine rollout after tying up its contract with AstraZeneca three months ahead of Brussels.

Ms Kyriakides declared that the company’s bosses should “reject the logic of first-come-first-serve” and shift supplies to the bloc.

And an EU official added: “We reject the logic of ‘first-come-first-served’. That may work at the neighbourhood butchers but not in a contract.”

The EU is facing a shortfall of nearly 50 million doses of Covid jabs after AstraZeneca warned it would have to cut the number of vaccines shipped to the bloc.

The firm has claimed it will only be able to deliver just 30 million jabs despite expectations to supply at leave 80 million by April.

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