COVID-19: Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejects EU claim that UK has imposed vaccine export ban

The prime minister has rejected claims from a senior EU figure that the UK has imposed an export ban on coronavirus vaccines.

Boris Johnson told MPs that the UK has not “blocked the export of a single COVID-19 vaccine”.

It comes after European Council President Charles Michel claimed on Tuesday: “The United Kingdom and the United States have imposed an outright ban on the export of vaccines or vaccine components produced on their territory.”

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Addressing this at Prime Minister’s Questions, the PM said: “The whole House can be proud of the UK’s vaccination programme, with over 22.5 million people now having received their first dose across the UK.

“We can also be proud of the support the UK has given to the international COVID response, including the £548m we have donated to Covax.

“I therefore wish to correct the suggestion from the European Council president that the UK has blocked vaccine exports.

“Let me be clear: we have not blocked the export of a single COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine components.

“This pandemic has put us all on the same side in the battle for global health; we oppose vaccine nationalism in all its forms.”

Amid a fresh UK-EU row, a senior EU diplomat was summoned to the Foreign Office earlier on Wednesday.

And Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has written to Mr Michel seeking to correct the record, saying that “any references to a UK export ban or any restrictions on vaccines are completely false”.

A spokesman for the EU delegation said: “This morning, Nicole Mannion, deputy ambassador of the EU to the UK and charge d’affaires at the EU delegation to the UK attended a meeting at the request of the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office.”

A Foreign Office spokesperson said: “This morning a senior representative of the EU’s delegation to the UK was summoned to a meeting with the permanent under-secretary of the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office to discuss the issue of incorrect assertions in recent EU communications.”

Mr Michel had used the latest issue of his regular newsletter to defend the bloc’s response to the COVID crisis.

Describing himself as “shocked” at accusations of “vaccine nationalism” levelled against the EU, Mr Michel wrote: “The facts do not lie.

“The United Kingdom and the United States have imposed an outright ban on the export of vaccines or vaccine components produced on their territory.”

Asked whether the European Commission supported the remarks, spokesman Eric Mamer said: “Clearly the situation, when it comes to the export of vaccines, depends very much on the countries concerned.

“As far as the European Union is concerned, you know what our policy is and we will limit ourselves to that.”

He said that “different countries have got different measures in place”, adding: “This does not concern vaccines, as far as we understand, coming from the UK.”

The latest tension over COVID vaccines follows January’s dispute when the EU threatened – and then swiftly abandoned – an attempt to override post-Brexit arrangements for Northern Ireland as part of its disagreement with vaccine manufacturers.

The EU has faced heavy internal criticism over its purchase and rollout of COVID vaccines, which has been markedly slower than the UK’s.

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