Vaccine row: EU chief claims bloc's jab rate is 'same' as UK
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Britain finally completed its full departure from the EU at the end of last year, much to the constant frustration and anger of several EU bureaucrats. Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailed Brexit as an opportunity to flourish outside of EU rules and regulations, while embracing the nation’s newfound sovereignty. Britain has already provided a vaccine dose to around half of the 67 million population, and is on course to vaccinate every adult by the end of July, with the country now easing out of its current lockdown.
In contrast, the EU’s own vaccine rollout has been nothing short of shambolic, caught up in red tape and fears of a new wave of Covid that has already triggered another full national lockdown in France.
There has been bitter war of words with vaccine maker AstraZeneca over supply issues and possible side effects from the jab that last month saw more than a dozen member states temporarily suspend its use.
Most notably, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has continued to lash out at the UK, threatening Britain with an export ban as it scrambles for available vaccine jabs to provide to 450 million EU citizens.
The EU chief had said Brussels had exported vaccines on several occasions, yet the UK had yet to replicate the move at all.
Ben Harris-Quinney, chairman of the Bow Group think tank, told Express.co.uk: “The EU and its supporters constantly told us that Brexit would be dangerous because the EU is so much better at preventing and handling crises.
“That lie is now in tatters for all to see. Government is best when it is closest to the people it governs, not in remote, unelected, bureaucratic chambers.
“When the EU realised how poorly it was faring with its vaccine rollout it started to lash out and threaten Britain, it was then that their response turned from an embarrassment to a disgrace.
“The EU has long been held up as a paragon for ‘the rules based system’ which is a set of rules largely made up by elites rather than the people.
“They repudiated Brexit and Trump for breaching this system, but we can see how quickly the EU itself discarded it when it no longer suited them.”
Last week, Jean-Claude Juncker warned EU chiefs would be foolish to trigger a vaccines war with Britain – and called on them to back down.
The former European Commission President, who had long been a vocal critic of Brexit and the UK itself during those negotiations, branded von der Leyen’s threat to blockade shipments of Covid jabs as “stupid”.
He claimed his successor’s plans “could create major reputational damage to the European Union, which used to be the world free-trade champion”.
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Mr Juncker told BBC HARDtalk: “I don’t think that this is the right way… we have to pull back from a vaccine war.
“Nobody in Britain, nobody in Europe understands why we are witnessing such, according to me, stupid vaccines war.
“We are not in a war, and we are not enemies, we are allies.”
Mr Juncker insisted EU states should look closer to home to find who is to blame for their sluggish rollout of Covid vaccines.
He said: “Britain took the decision months ago to have an emergency decision-based approach,” the Luxembourger said.
“Whereas the European Commission and member states were more budget-conscious… We were too cautious, and Britain was not cautious enough, but it was revealed to be the right approach.”
The former EU chief also described the decision by EU nations to suspend use of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab over fears it causes blood clots as a “mistake”.
Mr Juncker added: “You should never be in an atmosphere which is created on public opinion, you should rely on those who know better… and these are the medical authorities of the European Union.”
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