Brexit: EU aiming to 'cause pain' through reprisals says expert
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Giving an address to the Lord Mayor’s Banquet the Prime Minister attacked those countries which had “failed” to look out for allies over the past 18 months. While not directly naming the EU, he criticised those which had attempted to block vaccine exports at the start of the year.
In January Brussels threatened to withhold jabs earmarked for the UK in order to boost the number of doses for its own vaccination programme.
Mr Johnson attacked the bloc as he said a “collective sense of embarrassment” about the actions of some countries during the pandemic has helped lead to more progress at the COP26 climate change summit in Glasgow over the past two weeks.
“If Glasgow has been on the whole a success, if we have made important progress, then it is worth pausing and asking ourselves why,” he said.
“Perhaps we were also helped in Glasgow by a collective sense of embarrassment at the way internationalism failed us during Covid.
“The squabbles about PPE, the crazy decisions of some countries, naming no names, to try to stop the export of vaccines to others, something we were victims of at the start of this year.”
In January European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen introduced new rules that required all coronavirus vaccines due to be shipped to outside the bloc to require an export licence.
It gave the EU insight into just how many doses of the Pfizer vaccine manufactured in Belgium were being sent to Britain.
The bloc said it would ban the export of licences unless AstraZeneca increased the number of jabs it was providing to the continent.
The EU accused the drugs manufacturer of failing to honour its contract by not providing as many jabs as promised.
AstraZeneca said they had only ever agreed to use “best endeavours” to meet the specified number of doses.
The rhetoric from the EU sparked alarm the UK inoculation drive could be thrown off course.
While the bloc did not follow through on its threat to ban exports to Britain, it did block jabs from being exported to Australia.
In March a shipment of thousands of doses produced at an AstraZeneca facility in Italy were blocked from being sent Down Under.
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The actions of Brussels led the NHS England boss at the time, Sir Simon Stevens, to say it was important when “thinking about lessons learnt from the pandemic” to ramp up its manufacturing capabilities at home so Britain is less reliant on other countries in future.
Giving his speech last night, Mr Johnson also addressed grievances in how the EU is implementing the Northern Ireland Protocol.
With the UK and Brussels at an impasse in talks on renegotiating the Protocol, he once again warned he was ready to use the legal mechanism to suspend aspects of the international treaty.
He said: “Let me say – given all the speculation – that we would rather find a negotiated solution to the problems created by the Northern Ireland Protocol, and that still seems possible.
“But if we do invoke Article 16 – which by the way is a perfectly legitimate part of that Protocol – we will do so reasonably and appropriately.
“Because, we believe it is the only way left to protect the territorial integrity of our country, and meet our obligations to the people of Northern Ireland under the Belfast (Good Friday) Agreement.”
Lord Frost is still locked in talks with his EU counterpart in a bid to find a breakthrough in discussions.
He is expected to make a decision by the end of the month on whether to trigger Article 16.
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