As Europe threatens to limit vaccine exports to Britain and other countries, post-Brexit rift widens


Expected to last at least six weeks, curbs could have a particularly strong impact on Britain, which has so far received more than 10 million doses from plants within the EU – more than any other destination outside the EU – but has exported no vaccines back to the block. . Britain now has one of the European ones minimum daily number of cases per capita and has partially vaccinated more than 40 percent of its population, compared to only 9 percent in Germany and France.

Far behind in its vaccination campaign, the EU has seen a resurgence of the virus that has forced many governments to reintroduce stricter restrictions. Officials say the key reason for the delay is British-Swedish vaccine maker AstraZeneca, which has failed to meet its production targets for the block.

The exit from the pandemic is also perceived as a critical test after Brexit, which compares the communal approach of the 27-nation bloc with its former member’s self-determination model.

The British departure meant she could negotiate her own vaccine contracts without worrying about unity or equality. It has not spent as long as the EU has negotiated prices or classified liability issues. It could move faster and take greater risks than the EU would tolerate.

EU officials defended his approach, saying he had ensured that poor countries in the bloc were not left behind. Officials also cited the bloc’s commitment to dosing doses produced in its territory to other countries, while Britain and the United States did not. While more than 64 million doses was distributed among EU member states and associated countries at least until the middle of this month 41 million are exported outside the EU

“But open roads need to go both ways,” European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said is quoted as stated in a statement from Wednesday.

A British government spokesman said on Wednesday in response that “we are all fighting the same pandemic” and that Britain “will continue to work with our European partners”.

The European proposal for new export restrictions comes two weeks later European Council President Charles Michel he singled out both Britain and the United States for “imposing a direct ban on the export of vaccines or vaccine components produced in their territory.”

The Biden administration has since announced his intention to send some doses of AstraZeneca vaccine – not yet approved for use in the United States – in Mexico and Canada.

Meanwhile, EU negotiations with Britain have stalled as both sides insisted this week that they were right. Although they have been blaming each other for vaccine nationalism for weeks, the latest tensions have focused on access to doses produced at the AstraZeneca plant in the Netherlands. Both discussion they should be given a priority approach.

European leaders are scheduled to meet almost Thursday to discuss further measures at a summit also attended by President Biden.

Until now, European countries have only been allowed to block the export of vaccines if they consider that the company is in breach of its contractual obligations. This clause has so far been activated once by Italy – to stop the export of 250,000 AstraZenecs doses to Australia.

Additional surveillance by Italian officials on Wednesday led to the issue of about 30 million doses in the final factory outside Rome.

AstraZeneca said that 13 million doses are intended for low-income countries through the COVAX partnership, and 16 million will be distributed to the EU later this month and next.

“It is incorrect to describe this as stock,” the company said in a statement. “The vaccine production process is very complex and time consuming. In particular, doses of the vaccine must wait for quality control approval after the bottles have been filled. “

Concerns that broader restrictions on EU exports could also affect international deliveries to the EU are expected to be one of the points of discussion during the upcoming summit on Thursday.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said on Tuesday that she was not in favor of a direct ban on exports, citing the risk that it could disrupt international supply chains.

Speaking to British television over the weekend, British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said the EU would face “Reputational damage” if he set out with export restrictions.

“It’s going to be counterproductive,” Wallace said he told the BBC. An attempt to build walls around it would only harm the citizens of the EU and Great Britain. “

After days of fierce exchanges between European and British officials, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson tried to de-escalate tensions this week. Asked at a news conference Tuesday night whether Britain would share vaccine orders from a factory in the Netherlands, Johnson gave a conciliatory tone.

“We are all fighting the same pandemic … and vaccines are an international operation,” Johnson said. Britain did not “believe in blockades of any type of vaccine or vaccine material,” he said, adding that he was “encouraged” by similar feelings from the continent.

Later in the evening, Johnson reportedly told conservative lawmakers that behind the success of Britain’s vaccine introduction were “capitalism” and “greed”.

“The reason we succeeded in vaccination is because of capitalism, because of greed, my friends,” Johnson said, according to the Sun newspaper. He spoke at Zoom to a group of conservative MPs.

Unnamed government sources told various British media that the comments were vague, and not about the quarrel with Brussels over the delivery of vaccines. The Sun newspaper said Johnson told MPs on the call Zoom “I’m sorry I said that” and “forget I said that”.

Ariès reported from Brussels and Adam from London. Chico Harlan and Stefano Pitrelli of Rome contributed to this report.

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