BRUSSELS boss Ursula von der Leyen has stoked tensions with No 10 by accusing Britain of cutting corners in its vaccine programme.
The under-fire EU chief claimed the UK only got a head start over Europe because it compromised on “safety and efficacy” tests of jabs.
In a bizarre interview she also claimed the bloc’s snail-paced rollout is going better than expected – batting away ever louder criticism of it.
Her row risks provoking Downing St, and comes after France also accused Britain of “taking a lot of risks” to get jabs into people’s arms faster.
The German eurocrat refused to apologise for the EU’s sluggish scheme, and instead told people to judge her at the end of her five-year term.
She made the remarks after being repeatedly pressed on why Britain is performing so much better than the rest of the continent.
Mrs von der Leyen replied: “Some countries started to vaccinate a little before Europe, it is true.
“But they resorted to emergency, 24-hour marketing authorisation procedures.
“The Commission and the member states agreed not to compromise with the safety and efficacy requirements linked to the authorisation of a vaccine.
“Time had to be taken to analyse the data, which, even minimised, takes three to four weeks. So, yes, Europe left it later, but it was the right decision.
“I remind you that a vaccine is the injection of an active biological substance into a healthy body.
“We are talking about mass vaccination here, it is a gigantic responsibility.”
The EU has fully authorised all three jabs being used in Britain, which are made by Pfizer, AstraZeneca, and Moderna.
A major reason Brussels took longer to green light them is because it wanted to ensure pharmaceutical giants take on liability for their vaccines.
The UK has used emergency authorisation, meaning the Government has agreed to underwrite any future complications related to the rollout.
Both the PM and Britain’s regulator, the MHRA, have confirmed no corners were cut when assessing the safety of jabs.
Mrs von der Leyen has come under enormous pressure over the EU’s slow rollout of vaccines across the continent.
The EU has only manage to provide doses to 2.84% of its 450million-strong population, whereas the UK has jabbed 14.41% out of 65million.
But the Commission president dismissed criticism of its performance as the “ups and downs” of politics.
She said: “We’re only just starting. Yes, there are some issues at the start, but you have to look at it like a marathon where we haven’t started the first sprint yet.
“I am confident we will get there. I remind you that things went faster than expected, which is good news.”
She also repeated her expectation AstraZeneca will send vaccines from its UK factories to the continent to help make up a 40million shortfall this quarter.
Mrs von der Leyen said: “Nothing prevents the company from delivering us doses produced in the UK, as stipulated in the contract, especially since London does not prohibit it.
“It’s up to AstraZeneca to organise itself to deliver for its customers, that’s none of our business.
“What we want are plausible explanations and a schedule for upcoming deliveries.”
Brussels has been involved in a major row with AZ over its suspicions the company sent doses meant for the EU’s stockpile to Britain.
In response eurocrats drew up powers to ban exports of jabs, prompting a furious row with the UK plus other countries including Canada and Japan.
Last night ex EU chief Jean-Claude Juncker openly criticised the move taken by his successor in a highly unusual step.
In a scathing attack he lashed the Commission over the bloc’s jabs rollout which he said has been “too slow”.
Mrs von der Leyen is also under pressure from within Brussels after she tried dodge blame for the threat to put up a vaccine border in Northern Ireland.
The top eurocrat tried to shift the responsibility onto her trade commissioner, Valdis Dombrovskis, sparking outrage among officials.