Politics

EU vaccines row: Michel Barnier calls for cool heads after Commision threat over AstraZeneca jabs for UK


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split opened up in the European Union’s vaccine war with Britain today after Michel Barnier used his farewell speech to warn against “polemics and competition”.

His plea for a truce came emerged as a senior member of the European Commission, Thierry Breton, upped the stakes by saying “zero” AstraZeneca jabs would be shipped to the UK until the company had supplied more doses to Brussels.

Adopting hardline rhetoric Mr Breton, the internal market commissioner, said two major plants in the UK supply chain would not be allowed to export to the UK until the EU has had what it believes is its due, adding:  “There is no negotiation.”

French president Emmanuel Macron, whose country has one of the slowest vaccination rates, was forced to announce a third lockdown, including as three-week closure of schools, travel restrictions and the shutting on non-essential shops. “We will lose control if we do not move now,” he said in a televised address.

Drugs giant Pfizer said the EU’s new export controls were hampering its ability to deliver its highly effective vaccine, which is being supplied to over 70 countries.

Speaking at the Churchill Europe Symposium on Wednesday, Mr Barnier said:  “It is true that the UK has a quicker vaccination rate compared to the EU. But the fight against COVID 19 is more than speed of vaccination, important as that is…

“We will all find strong and weaker points in how we managed this. But there is no place, in such a serious situation, for polemics and competition. There are so many more reasons to cooperate, in the short and the long term.”

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Jeremy Hunt, who chairs the Commons Health select committee, welcomed the tone taken by the commission’s departing chief Brexit negotiator. “Michel Barnier has surprised us all by saying something we actually agree with,” he told the Standard. 



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