Vaccine row: Commentator says EU is ‘playing tit-for-tat’
Martin Daubney pointed out the irony of the situation given the regular warnings which emerged from the Remainer camp about drug shortages after Britain quit the bloc – pointing out things would be vastly worse if Britain was still a member. Mr Daubney, the former editor of Loaded magazine, took to Twitter after it was revealed Brussels was threatening to block exports of the Oxford/Astrazenca jab, accusing the company of failing to provide an adequate explanation for a huge shortfall of promised doses to member states.
He posted: “For years, Brexiteers called the EU a self-serving protectionist racket. For this, we were called “little Englanders”
“Now the EU threatens to block COVID vaccine exports – including to Britain. So, Remainers: tell us we were wrong?”
In a subsequent conversation with Express.co.uk Mr Daubney said: “If we were still in the EU, we’d be scrapping it out with all the others to get our fair share, with Germany and France calling the shots.
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“With Brexit in the air, we’d no doubt find ourselves where Obama predicted – at the back of the queue.”
He added: It’s a bitter irony that, for four-and-a-half years Remoaners told us there would be drug shortages in the UK post-Brexit.
”How many of them predicted these shortages would be inflicted upon us… by Brussels? It’s almost funny!”
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Vaccine rollouts in the EU have been have been slow compared with some other countries, and fraught with problems, not least interruptions to supply chains.
AstraZeneca, which developed the drug in partnership with Oxford University, told the EU that it could not meet agreed supply targets by the end of March.
Pfizer has also said there would be a temporary impact on shipments in late January to early February.
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European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen told a virtual meeting of the World Economic Forum: “Europe invested billions to help develop the world’s first COVID-19 vaccines. To create a truly global common good.
“And now, the companies must deliver. They must honour their obligations.”
In theory, EU member states could take AstraZeneca to court for breach of supply contracts if it did not honour its delivery schedule, Latvian Foreign Affairs Minister Edgars Rinkevics has confirmed.
His spokesman said: “The possibility should be evaluated, and it should be coordinated among the EU countries.”
Each EU member state has a separate supply contract with the company.
Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn backed EU proposals to introduce restrictions on COVID-19 vaccine exports, saying Europe should have its “fair share”.
He explained: “I can understand that there are production problems but then it must affect everyone in the same way.”
An AstraZeneca statement said: “Initial volumes will be lower than originally anticipated due to reduced yields at a manufacturing site within our European supply chain.”
AstraZeneca has offered to provide the European Union with supplies in February – but has not given clarity on the possible rerouting of doses from Britain, EU officials told Reuters on Tuesday.
Any move to limit vaccine exports to UK would jeopardise the target of vaccinating the most vulnerable by mid-February, England’s National Health Service chief said on Tuesday.
Simon Stevens, chief executive of NHS England, told MPs: “Were that to happen, then, of course, that would be a worry.”
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