Boris Johnson To Hold Urgent Talks With EU Leaders Urging Against Vaccine Export Ban
The Prime Minister is reportedly planning to contact EU leaders in a series of one-to-one phonecalls amid a growing row over coronavirus vaccine supplies.
Virtual talks are already set to be held on Thursday between EU leaders to discuss issues with the issues in the supply chain of the Oxford/AstraZeneca jab from the EU to the UK, but the Prime Minister is believed to be in touch with leaders today after reports over the weekend that the bloc would ban exports of the AstraZeneca to the UK.
UK officials have already insisted that millions of doses being produced in an AstraZeneca factory in the Netherlands – which does not have regulatory approval to supply the EU – should come to the UK.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has repeatedly stated that the bloc could "forbid" exports of quantities of the jab produced on the continent being sent across the Channel.
Hitting back at claims that Brussels was engaging in "vaccine nationalism", she insisted that over 40 million doses had been exported from the EU to 33 countries in recent weeks, including 10 million to the UK.
In a series of phonecalls with EU leaders ahead of Thursday's summit, the PM hopes to persuade EU leaders to drop plans to block exports, amid fears that doing so could damage the UK's vaccination programme.
But speaking to Reuters, an EU official said: "The Brits are insisting that the Halix plant in the Netherlands must deliver the drug substance produced there to them. That doesn't work. What is produced in Halix has to go to the EU."
The row comes amid a sluggish rollout of Covid-19 vaccines across the continent with several European countries facing a fresh wave of infections, including in France and Italy which have both been forced to reintroduce lockdown measures to stem the spread of the virus.
Speaking on Sunday, EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness warned "everything is on the table" ahead of the summit.
"What's terribly important is there is an increase in infections across Europe, but the leaders will meet this week and they will make an assessment of the current situation about the roll-out of vaccines," she told the BBC's Andrew Marr.
"Everything is on the table but there is no decision. It was really important that we found out what was happening in relation to vaccine production.
"We do need to have a global view of where vaccines are being produced."
But the approach has been called "counterproductive" by Defence Secretary Ben Wallace amid growing fears that the EU's approach could spark a vaccine war between the UK and the bloc.
"If contracts and undertakings get broken, that is a very damaging thing to happen for a trading bloc which prides itself on the rule of law," he said on Sunday.
"The Commission know, deep down, the world is watching what happens," he added.
"The grown-up thing would be for the European Commission - and some of the European leaders – to work together and roll out that supply".