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EU leaders unite to stick up for UK over VDL’s export ban threat

WORRIED European leaders have told Ursula von der Leyen to step back from threatening to ban vaccine shipments to Britain.

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EU diplomats warned her draconian export controls risk triggering a tit-for-tat trade war. And they insisted the European Commission shouldn’t blockade deliveries of Covid jabs to the UK without permission from member states. EU envoys were today pondering Mrs von der Leyen’s proposed export ban on the life-saving medical supplies to countries with better vaccination rates than the bloc.

Under her scheme, vaccine producers on the Continent must seek permission from eurocrats before shipping doses overseas.

Mrs von der Leyen wants to use the stringent regulations to stop AstraZeneca from using European factories to supply the British vaccination campaign.

The top eurocrat has previously proposed also cutting off our access to the Pfizer and Moderna jabs, which are made in Belgium and Spain, to help get the bloc’s rollout back on track.

But a host of EU capitals, including Belgium, Sweden and the Netherlands, refused to endorse the plans.

EU vaccines news Mark Rutte and Ursula von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen told to rein in vaccine export ban threats against Britain (Image: GETTY)

Ursula von der Leyen

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen wanted to stop shipments to the UK (Image: GETTY)

In a joint statement, seen by Express.co.uk, they said: “It might inadvertently start a negative spiral of export restrictions that will hamper the necessary ramping up of global production and potentially also the EU’s own production and distribution.”

Diplomats from the three countries argued that eurocrats should only use the Brussels-led export ban as a last-resort measure.

They urged the Commission not to further wreck relations with Britain and find a “win-win” agreement with Downing Street on future vaccine cooperation.

But the UK-friendly nations failed to muster up enough support to block Mrs von der Leyen’s proposals outright.

Mark Rutte

Dutch PM Mark Rutte opposes export controls on vaccines (Image: GETTY)

The regulation was backed by Germany, France and the Czech Republic to get it over the line.

Berlin stressed the export controls “should continue to be only a measure of last resort” and warned they risk “lasting reputational damage for the EU”, according to a diplomatic note.

And France’s hardline Europe minister Clement Beaune insisted the bloc will seize shipments of AstraZeneca until it starts getting supplies from UK factories.

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Covid vaccination live

Covid vaccination live (Image: EXPRESS)

He said: “We will deliver if we are delivered to. It’s about reciprocity, it’s about defending our interests, Europe is not naive.”

It came as news emerged that Britain had sent a shipment of around 700,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine to Australia.

The Commission refused to retract previous claims that Downing Street was imposing its own export ban on life-saving jabs.

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A Government spokesman said: “Producing vaccines is an international endeavour and the UK is proud to be playing a leading role in the global effort to develop and distribute the coronavirus vaccine.

“We are continuing to make exceptional progress through the roll out of our vaccination programme and remain confident in our supplies.

“The details of any commercial vaccine supply agreements between national governments and AstraZeneca are commercially sensitive and a matter for those two parties.”

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