Humiliated EU climbs down on vaccine export ban after ‘Trumpian’ plan to block 3.5million doses reaching UK

3 weeks ago 2

THE EU has backed down on its vaccine export ban following their explosive "Trumpian" plans to block 3.5million life-saving Covid jabs from entering the UK.

European leaders have yet again sensationally climbed down in the vaccine war - after being met with fury over the "grave" bid to block jabs on the Irish border.

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Boris Johnson expressed his 'grave concern' to the EU

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Boris Johnson expressed his 'grave concern' to the EUCredit: 2021 Getty Images

Ursula von der Leyen lashed out at AstraZeneca

Ursula von der Leyen lashed out at AstraZeneca

The 3.5million life-saving jabs ordered from a Pfizer BioNTech in Belgium will now enter the UK, Ursula von der Leyen said today.

The bloc scrapped the export ban following a call between the EU President and Boris Johnson.

Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said this afternoon the EU "recognises they made a mistake" and "stepped back" following the conversation between the two leaders.

He said: "We're confident, we have assurances, that the supply that we have procured, the supply that we have paid for, is going to be delivered."

Meanwhile, Dominic Raab said he felt "reassured" that the EU has "no desire to to block suppliers fulfilling contracts for vaccine distribution to the UK".

The Foreign Secretary tweeted this afternoon: "The world is watching and it is only through international collaboration that we will beat this pandemic."

Despite matters now being resolved, politicians previously slammed Brussels for handing itself new sweeping powers to prevent companies from sending millions of vaccines across the channel.

Ex-Northern Ireland Secretary Julian Smith today branded the act "almost Trumpian".

The Tory MP added: "The EU cocked up big time last night, but we all need to work in the interest of preserving Northern Ireland.

"It is not just a backdoor for goods going to Britain, it is a very sensitive place and we have a duty between the EU and UK to ensure there is no hard border."

His comments came after widespread anger erupted in Northern Ireland and among Tory MPs - with ex-Brexit minister David Jones comparing the EU to the "Mafia".

Boris Johnson also condemned the act, which meant the bloc overrode part of the Brexit deal to effectively create a hard border in Ireland.

A No10 spokesperson said: "The Prime Minister spoke to EU Commission president Ursula Von Der Leyen yesterday evening.

"He expressed his grave concerns about the potential impact which the steps the EU has taken today on vaccine exports could have."

Arlene Foster has reacted with fury to the EU move

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Arlene Foster has reacted with fury to the EU moveCredit: PA:Press Association

First Minister Arlene Foster branded it an “incredible act of hostility" and accused Brussels of playing politics with people’s lives.

"The European Union has once again shown it is prepared to use Northern Ireland when it suits their interests but in the most despicable manner - over the provision of a vaccine which is designed to save lives," she said.

"At the first opportunity the EU has placed a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland over the supply chain of the Coronavirus vaccine.”

She said the EU had used Article 16 of the Brexit deal in an “aggressive and most shameful way” and “it is now time for our Government to step up”.

The Republic of Ireland's Premier Micheal Martin has spoken to the European Commission's president Ursula von der Leyen to "express concerns" about the plan.

EU leaders later performed a major climbdown and say they will now no longer go ahead with the controls. 

In a statement, the European Commission said: "To tackle the current lack of transparency of vaccine exports outside the EU, the Commission is putting in place a measure requiring that such exports are subject to an authorisation by Member States.

"In the process of finalisation of this measure, the Commission will ensure that the Ireland / Northern Ireland Protocol is unaffected. The Commission is not triggering the safeguard clause.

"Should transits of vaccines and active substances toward third countries be abused to circumvent the effects of the authorisation system, the EU will consider using all the instruments at its disposal.

"In the process of finalising the document, the commission will also be fine-tuning the decision-making process under the implementing regulation."

A man being vaccinated in Northern Ireland

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A man being vaccinated in Northern IrelandCredit: Press Eye Ltd

WHO chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the EU vaccine blocking was a "catastrophic moral failure" that will keep "pandemic burning".

Speaking today during the virtual Davos summit, the WHO chief said vaccine hoarding would "keep the pandemic burning" as well as being a "catastrophic moral failure".

Brussels fired the first shot in the vaccine war this week after sensationally claiming Britain is "hijacking" doses.

The bloc then tried to slam the back door shut on medicines entering Northern Ireland using powers under Article 16 of the Brexit deal, which was signed just 29 days ago.

The article allows the EU to override the treaty and was devised as a last resort to alleviate serious disruption to trade in Northern Ireland after Brexit.

As tensions boiled over, chief eurocrat Ursula von der Leyen accused AstraZeneca of misrepresenting its contract with the bloc and ordered the firm to find up to an extra 50million doses for the continent from Britain.

Under the EU vaccine plan customs authorities in bloc countries will have to notify the Commission every time jabs are being sent to the UK - allowing them to keep an eye on our supplies.

The new rule, which comes into force on Saturday and lasts until March, means vaccine makers will have disclose all shipments they've made abroad in the last three months to try to catch out those heading to the UK.

Macron waded into the row with bizarre claims

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Macron waded into the row with bizarre claims

French President Emmanuel Macron then added fuel to the fire by making bizarre, baseless claims there was no evidence the Oxford-AstraZeneca shot worked in over-65s.

His comments came despite EU regulators giving the jab the green light in the fight against Covid.

Sir John Bell, who is part of the Oxford University life-saving vaccine team, accused Macron of "demand management" over his claims.

The professor told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "I'm not sure where he got that from."

He acknowledged the original study only had small numbers of elderly people, but added: "The numbers still pointed toward a very highly effective vaccine but the numbers were small, in fairness, we always accepted that."

And he reassured there is "really persuasive evidence" the vaccine can protect those in the vulnerable category.

"I suspect this is a bit of demand management from Mr Macron," he added.

Pressed if he thinks he is trying to reduce demand, Sir John said: "Well, if he didn't have any vaccine the best thing you could do is reduce demand."

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The EU's chief negotiator Michel Barnier today called for "co-operation" between Brussels and the UK.

Mr Barnier told The Times: 'We are facing an extraordinarily serious crisis, which is creating a lot of suffering, which is causing a lot of deaths in the UK, in France, in Germany, everywhere.

'And I believe we must face this crisis with responsibility, certainly not with the spirit of oneupmanship or unhealthy competition. I recommend preserving the spirit of co-operation between us.' 

EU slammed over ‘Trumpian’ plan to block Covid vaccine jabs entering the UK at Irish border

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