Boris Johnson, British prime minister, will this week urge EU nationwide capitals to veto a suggestion from Brussels that will block AstraZeneca vaccine exports to the UK and push post-Brexit relations to a brand new low.
London has laid declare to hundreds of thousands of doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca Covid-19 jab produced at a Dutch factory, sparking a fierce battle with the European Fee, which says they need to be used within the EU.
European heads of presidency are making ready to resolve at a summit starting on Thursday whether or not to press forward with a menace to cease exports of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the UK from the Halix website within the Netherlands.
British officers mentioned Johnson would name EU counterparts forward of the leaders’ on-line assembly, and that Emmanuel Macron, French president, and Angela Merkel, German chancellor, had been prone to be on his record.
An EU official retorted that the bloc was “conscious of the energetic marketing campaign by the UK authorities to foyer sure member states”, citing Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany as examples.
The official added: “As previously, looking for division among the many member states is not going to succeed.”
Ursula von der Leyen, European Fee president, floated the thought of tougher controls on EU jab exports to vaccine-producing international locations final week, in a transfer seen to be aimed toward London.
“We have now the choice of banning a deliberate export,” she instructed Germany’s Funke media group over the weekend. “That’s the message to AstraZeneca: you will need to fulfil your contract with Europe first earlier than you begin delivering to different international locations.”
Johnson, who on Sunday celebrated a daily record of 844,285 first and second vaccinations, fears a cross-Channel dispute might spark vaccine protectionism extra extensively throughout the globe. The EU accuses the UK of hoarding provides.
Ben Wallace, UK defence secretary, instructed the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme that making an attempt to “construct partitions round this might solely injury each EU residents and the UK”.
Whereas the European bloc has exported greater than 10m doses of assorted jabs to Britain over the previous two months, it has acquired none in return.
Frustration with London has mounted in European capitals because the UK’s immunisation drive has benefited from clean AstraZeneca provides, whereas the corporate has slashed early supply targets in its contract with the EU for as much as 400m doses.
“We have to have the precept of reciprocity between international locations, and correct proportionality,” Stella Kyriakides, EU well being commissioner, instructed the Monetary Instances in a video interview. “That is one thing that will probably be mentioned with the leaders on the summit . . . and it’s at that stage that selections will probably be taken.”
London has insisted its cope with AstraZeneca to provide the UK with 100m doses offers it first name on manufacturing from EU vegetation in addition to British factories.
However the EU is equally adamant that it’s entitled to each AstraZeneca provide from Europe and a share from two UK factories additionally named as manufacturing websites within the contract the European Fee signed with the corporate in August.
The UK did an preliminary cope with the corporate a number of months earlier.
The EU thought of tighter export controls has divided the bloc’s member states, with international locations together with the Netherlands and Belgium — each coronavirus vaccine producers — worrying concerning the threat of disrupting world provide chains.
Johnson has already spoken to Mark Rutte, Dutch prime minister, and Alexander De Croo, his Belgian counterpart, in an effort to move off any EU summit choice to dam shipments.
One Dutch official urged the UK to succeed in a cope with the fee and AstraZeneca as a way to keep away from a “lose-lose state of affairs”.
Whereas the UK has not delivered completed vaccines to the EU, it has beforehand equipped essential uncooked supplies wanted for the pioneering BioNTech/Pfizer mRNA vaccine made within the bloc.
A major focus of the EU-UK dispute is a stockpile of unknown measurement of the AstraZeneca vaccine’s energetic ingredient produced within the Netherlands by Halix, a subcontractor, each UK and European officers say.
The manufacturing facility doesn’t have regulatory approval to provide the EU, though it was named as one of many bloc’s two major sources of manufacturing within the European Fee-AstraZeneca contract greater than six months in the past.
Kyriakides mentioned the ball was “firmly in AstraZeneca’s courtroom” to provide the information wanted for authorisation by the European Medicines Company. She added that — if all went easily — the plant might begin to ship to the EU earlier than the tip of the month.
AstraZeneca has beforehand mentioned it anticipated to win EU regulatory approval for the Halix manufacturing facility quickly, and added that the timeline is “solely as anticipated”. It didn’t touch upon the UK’s declare to the Halix provide.
Pascal Soriot, AstraZeneca’s chief govt, has mentioned that the overwhelming majority of its vaccine produced within the EU stays within the bloc.