Vaccine: Von der Leyen hints at slowing of exports to UK
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The former Greek finance minister unleashed a brutal attack on the Commission President on Thursday, claiming Mrs von der Leyen has “brought the EU in disrepute”. Mr Varoufakis hit out: “The time has come to fire Ursula von der Leyen.
“A failed german minister, promoted to Commission President by a backroom Merkel-Makron deal, and voted in with the help of Orban’s MPs, she has brought the EU in disrepute with a never-ending vaccination fiasco.”
The Commission chief replaced Jean-Claude Juncker in December 2019.
She was Emmanuel Macron’s pick and a long-term ally of Angela Merkel.
It took days of negotiations and a difficult compromise among EU countries to nominate her back in 2019.
She was confirmed in the European Parliament with 383 votes, just nine more than the minimum required.
On Wednesday, Mrs von der Leyen threatened Britain on Wednesday with a halt on vaccine exports, claiming the UK has failed to reciprocate the bloc’s generosity.
She said she wanted “reciprocity and proportionality” in exports, pointing out that 10 million doses of vaccine had gone from the EU to the UK.
Although Pfizer jabs were crossing the English Channel to the UK, AstraZeneca vaccines are not heading the other way, she indicated.
She added: “We are still waiting for doses to come from the UK, so this is an invitation to show us that there are also doses from the UK coming to the European Union so that we have reciprocity.”
The comments received staunch criticism in the UK.
Health Secretary Matt Hancock said the supply of vaccines to the UK from EU production facilities was “fulfilling contractual responsibilities and we fully expect those contracts to be delivered on”.
He said the UK had funded research into the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine and had a contract for the first 100 million doses for people in the UK.
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Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has accused the EU of “brinkmanship” over Ms von der Leyen’s stance.
He said: “I think it takes some explaining because the world’s watching… It also cuts across the direct assurances that we had from the Commission.
“We expect those assurances and legal, contracted supply to be respected.”
He said von der Leyen’s comments contradicted assurances he had been given by Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis and by EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
He added: “We were reliably informed that they weren’t aware of any plans to restrict lawfully contracted supply to the UK.”
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick said on Thursday that Mrs von der Leyen’s threat was disappointing.
He said: “I was surprised and disappointed by those comments but the prime minister had spoken earlier in the year to Ursula von der Leyen and she gave a very clear commitment, which was that the EU would not engage in this sort of activity, that contractual responsibilities would be honoured.
“And that’s exactly what we intend to do and I hope and expect the EU to stick to their side of the bargain.”
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