UK And EU Signal End To So-Called Vaccine War

In a joint statement, both sides say they are working on a “win-win situation” for vaccine supply on both sides of the English Channel.

The UK and EU have signalled that their so-called coronavirus “vaccine war” is coming to an end.

In a joint statement, the government and European Commission said they were working on creating a “win-win situation” for vaccine supply on both sides of the English Channel.

It appeared to bring an end to Brussels’ threats to ban exports of vaccines from the EU to the UK, ahead of a European leaders’ summit on Thursday.

The joint statement said: “We are all facing the same pandemic and the third wave makes cooperation between the EU and UK even more important.

“We have been discussing what more we can do to ensure a reciprocally beneficial relationship between the UK and EU on Covid-19.

“Given our interdependencies, we are working on specific steps we can take - in the short-, medium- and long term - to create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all our citizens.

“In the end, openness and global cooperation of all countries will be key to finally overcome this pandemic and ensure better preparation for meeting future challenges.

“We will continue our discussions.”

It came after Boris Johnson warned a vaccine trade war would result in “considerable” and “long-term” damage, and as the EU set out a tougher regime to stem supplies of jabs to nations faring better in the pandemic.

Admitting it is a Covid-19 “hotspot”, the Commission said on Wednesday it may not approve exports to nations with more advanced vaccine rollouts or where there is a better “epidemiological situation”.

The EU announced the move amid a row with AstraZeneca over supplies, with Brussels complaining that the UK is getting doses from Europe while not exporting any back.

Member states were told to consider “reciprocity” - whether the destination country restricts its own vaccine exports.

They will also consider” proportionality” - whether the “conditions prevailing” in the destination country are “better or worse than the EU’s”.

Commission executive vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis denied the export authorisation mechanism was targeted at any one country but said 10m jabs had moved from the EU to the UK since it introduced checks and that “zero doses” had returned from British plants.

But the prime minister told MPs: “I don’t think that blockades of either vaccines or of ingredients for vaccines are sensible, and I think that the long-term damage done by blockades can be very considerable.

“I would just gently point out to anybody considering a blockade or an interruption of supply chains that companies may look at such actions and draw conclusions about whether or not it is sensible to make future investments in countries where arbitrary blockades are imposed.”

Dombrovskis argued the controls are necessary because while the EU is one of the “global hotspots of the pandemic” it is also the “largest exporter of vaccines”.
Across the EU, just over 11% of adults have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine but in the UK the figure is more than 54%.

Continental Europe is also experiencing a “third wave” of coronavirus cases as the UK slowly emerges from a winter of lockdown.

Concerns over UK supplies will centre largely on Pfizer, the main vaccine export from the bloc and being produced in Germany and Belgium.

Dombrovskis did not rule out restricting the Pfizer product, saying: “Concrete decisions will be taken on a case-by-case basis.”

A spokesperson for Pfizer said it was assessing the “full implications” of the commission’s move, adding: “We have been clear and consistent with all stakeholders that the free movement of goods and supply across borders is absolutely critical to Pfizer and the patients we serve, particularly during this devastating global pandemic.

“Pfizer is deeply concerned by any legislation that threatens our ability to manufacture in, or export from, the European Union.”

Dombrovskis maintained the EU’s criticism of British-Swedish pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca, saying it had “only delivered a small portion of its agreed contractual commitments” to the bloc.

The commissioner said “continued shortfalls in production are not distributed fairly across different contracting countries”, in an apparent reference to the production of AstraZeneca jabs in the UK.

Bernd Lange, chairman of the European Parliament’s international trade committee, hit out at the commission’s move, warning it could have consequences for the bloc’s vaccination efforts.

“Everyone should realise what kind of danger we are engaging in: we might end up with less vaccines for the EU.

“Because now all manufacturers are being held hostage for the problems with AstraZeneca,” he said.

“The EU Commission brings out the shotgun.

“But using the cluster munitions we may end up shooting ourselves in the foot because the supply chains for vaccine production might be affected and interrupted.”


What's Hot