Dominic Raab suggests EU is acting like a dictatorship after Ursula von der Leyen’s threat
Vaccine: Von der Leyen hints at slowing of exports to UK
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The Foreign Secretary’s comments came after the President of the European Commission threatened to block vaccine exports to the UK. Relations between Britain and Brussels have become increasingly tense due to a row over coronavirus jab exports.
Speaking at a press conference, Ms von der Leyen said: “It is hard to explain to our citizens why vaccines produced in the EU are going to other countries that are also producing vaccines, while hardly anything is coming back.
“All options are on the table. We are in the crisis of the century and I’m not ruling out anything because we have to make sure Europeans are vaccinated as soon as possible.”
The bloc is struggling to obtain sufficient supplies to speed up its own vaccination programme.
The UK is the main export destination for vaccines manufactured in the EU.
Ms von der Leyen has said 41 million jab doses have been exported from the bloc to 33 countries in six weeks.
Britain has received more than 10 million of those exports.
Mr Raab said that blocking the exports of vaccines to the UK would be “wrong”.
He told Reuters: “I think it takes some explaining, because the world’s watching.
“We’ve, all of us, including with our European friends, been saying throughout the pandemic, that you’d be wrong to curtail or interfere with lawfully contracted supply.
“We all said it last year on PPE. We’ve been saying it this year, on vaccines and other things.
“It also cuts across the direct assurances we had from the Commission, which I followed up on this week and over the last few days.
“We were reliably informed that they weren’t aware of any plans to restrict lawfully contracted supply to the UK.”
The Foreign Secretary likened Ms von der Leyen’s threats to acting as a dictator.
He said: “Frankly, I’m surprised we’re having this conversation. It is normally what the UK and EU team up on to reject when other countries with less democratic views than our own engage in that kind of brinkmanship.”
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Downing Street accused the EU of undermining the global fight against COVID-19.
Boris Johnson’s official spokesman said: “Putting in place restrictions endangers global efforts to fight the virus.”
Several EU states, including France and Germany, paused their vaccine rollouts after reports emerged of blood clots in some AstraZeneca recipients.
However, AstraZeneca and the UK’s medical regulator have strongly disputed the claims made by the EU.
The European Medicines Agency stands by its decision to approve the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab and has said there is “no indication” the jab causes blood clots.
The agency said it will investigate the situation further and is expected to release its results today.
England’s Deputy chief medical officer, Prof Jonathan Van-Tam, also insisted there is “no evidence” that the AstraZeneca jab cause an “increased risk” of blood clots.
During a Downing Street press briefing, Prof Van-Tam said: “Vaccines don’t save lives if they’re in fridges. They only save lives if they’re in arms.”
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