EU vaccine plan slammed by Czech MEP Kateřina Konečná
Britain has soared ahead of Brussels with its vaccination programme by signing a contract with AstraZeneca three months before the bloc stopped dithering over a decision. But this has sparked fury as the EU demanded doses be sent from British plants to make up for a European shortfall this week. The UK was able to accelerate its vaccine contract due to Brexit. Boris Johnson did not need to wait for a bloc-wide agreement before quickly signing up to millions of doses.
Commentator and Brexiteer Darren Grimes has now criticised Remainers for refusing to accept Brussels is out of step.
He wrote on Twitter: “Were Brussels steaming ahead of Brexit Britain, placing their vaccine orders in ahead of us, Remainers would squeal of the act of egregious self harm we have inflicted upon our nation.
“Of course, in reality, the opposite is true so the cry that comes is: ‘It’s not a competition!'”
His comments were backed by a number of social media users.
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One wrote on Twitter: “If it were the reverse there would be countless Remoaners demanding that everyone who voted Brexit be at the back of the queue for the vax.
“Will remoaners offer their vax to an EU country when it’s their turn?”
Another claimed: “The EU were the same with PPE procurement. Screwed up so catastrophically, states needed to steal others product.”
And a third person wrote: “I do agree that the EU are trying to put the squeeze on AZ to in effect not honour its earlier contract with the UK.
“But the vaccination programme has to be a global effort and falling out with our neighbours on this is not good.”
One of those accused of siding with the EU include Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who suggested she may publish details of coronavirus vaccine supplies arriving in the country as early as next week.
She told the Scottish Parliament: “I think we’ll just go back to publishing the actual supply figures from next week, so that we all have transparency around that.”
Douglas Ross, the Scottish Tory leader, said this would be “deeply irresponsible”.
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The Government also claimed setting out how many doses are expected and when could breach commercial confidentiality.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove added the Government will not allow vaccines intended for the UK to go to the EU.
However, German MEP Dr Peter Liese warned the UK it would be acting like former US president Donald Trump if it pursued a “UK first” contract for the vaccines.
He told the BBC’s Newscast podcast: “If it’s true what some say that the UK had a “UK first” contract – that it’s guaranteed that they will get everything and everybody else has to suffer – then this is like Donald Trump. He did a US-first policy.
“That’s why we have a huge problem. For the BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine, there are two plants. One in the EU and one in the US.
“And the US doesn’t export even to Canada. Everything comes from the European Union.
“We cannot be the only one who plays fair in this game. If others say, ‘UK first’, ‘US first’, then we have to say, ‘EU first’, but I hope – I really hope – this will be sorted out and everybody will get its fair share.”
The row comes after EU chief Charles Michel said yesterday that if it were “deemed politically opportune”, EU action could include using the bloc’s Article 122.
This would mean EU states would legally take “measures appropriate to the economic situation” in case of severe supply difficulties.
He said in a leaked letter to the leaders of Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Greece: “This would give the EU and member states the legal means, by adopting appropriate urgent measures, to ensure effective vaccine production and supply for our population.
“I made this suggestion to the (European) Commission President von der Leyen so that we can explore this avenue imminently.”
EU Commision Head Ursula von der Leyen also demanded an explanation from the drugmaker for delivery delays.
Ms Von der Leyen told Deutschlandfunk radio the contract contained very clear delivery amounts for December and the first three quarters of 2021, and also mentioned four production sites, two of which are in Britain.
She said: “There are binding orders and the contract is crystal clear.”
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