EU vaccine campaign is a ‘disaster’ says Ernest Urtasun
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Downing Street faced down the threat with a promise to help get the bloc’s shambolic immunisation programme back on track. No10 turned on the diplomatic charm amid concerns our highly successful scheme was in the crosshairs of European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen. Top foreign office envoy Sir Tim Barrow was dispatched to Brussels to steer her away from sparking a full-blown trade war with the UK.
A senior European source told Express.co.uk: “We’re just starting to negotiate.”
The talks will focus on shoring up the vital cross-Channel supply chains to keep the vaccine taps turned on for both the EU and UK.
In a joint statement with Brussels, the Government 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”
The Commission vice-president suggested Brussels could retaliate by snatching doses of the Pfizer vaccine, made in Belgium, heading to our shores.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the move would force pharmaceutical giants to reconsider doing business on the Continent.
He told the Commons Liaison Committee: “Companies may look at such actions… and draw conclusions about whether or not it is sensible to make future investments in countries where they have arbitrary blockades.”
EU states, including Germany, Ireland, and the Netherlands are reluctant to use the powers over fears of sparking a vaccines war.
One senior diplomat said: “Having the stick should be enough. We don’t want to use the stick because this will lead to a lose-lose situation.
“Things should not go sour. That’s the worst thing that could occur. Let’s get back to what we’re all looking for, which is vaccinating our people.”
Dutch PM Mark Rutte personally intervened to cool tensions after talks with Boris Johnson last Friday on a possible compromise.
In a series of follow-up calls to chief eurocrat Ursula von der Leyen he stressed the risk a vaccine war would pose to supply chains.
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