Von der Leyen under pressure: EU chief issued warning over ‘very bad’ Brexit mistake

Brexit: Lord Vaizey calls on Ursula von der Leyen to resign

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Head of the European Commission, Mrs Von der Leyen, has been told she must explain the bloc’s slow vaccination progress in front of a plenary session of the European Parliament. Recently the European Commission chief admitted that “challenges of mass production” should have been considered last year. She added the EU should have been “building new supply chains, ramping up production, and it should have done that earlier”.

Referencing the difference between the swift roll-out from post-Brexit UK and the sluggish progress of the EU, Ms Von der Leyen admitted that “a country can be a speedboat and the EU is more of a tanker”.

And in a bid to try to protect the European Union over its vaccine fiasco, the bloc moved to apply Article 16 of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement, which would have effectively created a hard-border on the island of Ireland.

Doing so would have prevented vaccines leaving the bloc and entering the UK.

But, the threat saw protests from both Ireland and Great Britain – before the EU quickly backed down.

EU expert Stefan Lehne from the APA’s Brussels think tank Carnegie Foundation for International Peace (CEIP) said: “The threat of border controls between Ireland and Northern Ireland was a very bad mistake, as everyone in charge should have been aware of the sensitivity of the issue for the Irish peace process.

“The mistake was quickly corrected, but has certainly damaged the reputation of the Commission President.”

Referring to Mrs Von der Leyen’s current challenges, Janis Emmanouilidis from the European Policy Center (EPC) in Brussels, said: “Her standing has been damaged.

“But it can be restored. There is a loss of trust.

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“Everyone who is critical of Brussels is now taking advantage of this.

The situation was not going to get any easier for the Commission President.

“She had strong support from Chancellor Angela Merkel in the second half of the year.

“However, Merkel’s influence is waning, and this support will gradually wane this year.

“Those were mistakes that shouldn’t have happened.

“In addition, there was also the impression that responsibility was being passed on to others.

“The decision was also made in the smallest of circles and the Barnier task force, for example, was not involved.”

Additional reporting by Monika Pallenber

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