EU warned Brexit ‘could be tremendous’ and make Czexit calls ‘more attractive’

EU vaccine plan slammed by Czech MEP Kateřina Konečná

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Brussels and its member states have been at loggerheads for weeks over the bloc’s handling of the coronavirus vaccine rollout. Tensions rose after French President Emmanuel Macron was challenged when he described the AstraZeneca jab as “quasi-ineffective”. This, reports suggest, led anti-vaccine sentiment to grow throughout the bloc.

It began a row over vaccine doses between AstraZeneca and the EU, after a shortfall in the number of jabs was reported earlier this year.

The low number of vaccines available led the likes of the Czech Republic to plead with other countries for doses, as it struggled to roll out the jab to its citizens.

The bitterness experienced with leaders inside the bloc, including the European Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen – who admitted the rollout had not gone as planned – has begun a new rise in euroscepticism.

This is particularly evident as the UK, which recently concluded its Brexit trade talks, has raced ahead in the vaccine rollout race, as it’s free to gather its own jabs away from the EU.

The Czechs had previously warned that in the event of Brexit, other nations could follow suit in demanding debates over whether countries wish to retain their EU membership.

Prior to the vote in 2016, then-Czech Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka detailed how the “consequences of Brexit could really be tremendous”.

He added to news agency CTK that “debates about leaving the EU could be expected in this country in a few years, too, if Britain left” Brussels.

This view was shared by Tomas Prouza, who at the time was Prague’s state secretary for EU affairs.

JUST IN: EU leaders beg Macron for share of vaccine doses as bloc lags behind

He argued that Brexit would make it “politically much more acceptable” for other countries to propose leaving the bloc, adding: “So far in the Czech Republic this is proposed only by fringe parties with minimal public appeal — but if Brexit happens, it would be much more attractive to propose a Czexit for parties like Civic Democratic Party [ODS] or for the communists.

“If such an idea attracts a wider following, it entails a danger of returning us back into the Russian sphere of influence which is against our national interests. But many will work hard to accomplish that.”

Polling in 2019 from Kantar found that in the Czech Republic 34 percent of people would vote leave if a Czexit vote – Prague’s equivalent to Brexit – was held.

It found 66 percent would vote remain, but the figures showed Prague had the highest anti-Brussels sentiment of all member states.

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According to Prague Morning, Czech euroscepticism was felt most by those living in small towns, as well as among the unemployed and self-employed.

And while those polled felt EU membership was good for business and the nation’s economy, the newspaper argued that this didn’t mean “automatic EU support”.

While the Czech Republic continues to battle its infection rates, France confirmed it would come to support Prague by offering 100,000 doses of the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine by mid-March.

It is currently a hotspot for coronavirus, and has one of the highest COVID-19 rates in the world in terms of infections and deaths per million.

It has forced the government to toughen up its restrictions and lockdown measures, while attempting to speed up vaccinations.

France said it would be looking at countries struggling with the virus, like the Czech Republic, as it “borrows” doses of the vaccine next month, which would then be returned back in April via a “a common EU vaccine procurement mechanism”.

As well as France, Czech Prime Minister Andrej Babis confirmed the country would be reaching out to other nations to try and gather more vaccines.

This week it was confirmed Israel, which has installed a world-leading vaccine rollout plan, would also give thousands of doses of the Moderna vaccine to Prague.

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