PMQs: Boris Johnson rejects EU’s claim about vaccine exports
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German MEP Dr Peter Liese claimed the EU should consider imposing a “complete export ban” on vaccines against the UK after Prime Minister Boris Johnson and EU Council President Charles Michel engaged in a bitter skirmish.
Speaking to Euronews Europe correspondent Shona Murray, Dr Liese argued the AstraZeneca vaccine would not even exist if it was not for EU and German funds to BioNTech research over the years, as he reacted to the UK’s claim its stocks of the Oxford jabs are higher than those of the EU because of the support given by the UK Government to the English University.
He blasted: “The argument of the UK Government is that they supported the development of the vaccine at the University of Oxford.
“That may be true, but I cannot imagine that the people in Oxford have not been benefiting from European money.
“Oxford was one of the biggest recipients of European research money and more importantly, the German Government and the European Union financed the development of the BioTech vaccine and the development of the RNA technology in BioTech for many, many years.
Brexit news: Peter Liese MEP says EU should ban vaccine exports to UK (Image: INFLUENCE INDEX)
Brexit news: Boris Johnson denied the UK has a vaccine exports ban (Image: GETTY)
“So the vaccine wouldn’t exist without European and German support.
“Would we apply the same policy as the UK? We could keep it even for Germany. I don’t advise my government to apply the same policies as the UK but at least Europe needs to be very outspoken now.
“And I wouldn’t exclude a complete export ban.”
He added: “Pfizer went to the UK when they don’t deliver anything to the continent.
“This is just not fair and we need to be much stronger in addressing this.”
The German politician’s comments come as Boris Johnson hit out at the EU after accusations from the bloc the UK had banned exports of COVID-19 vaccines.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab summoned an EU diplomat over the claim.
Britain, which quit the EU last year, has provided vaccine doses to more than a third of its population, far outpacing the 27 remaining EU members.
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Brexit news: Charles Michel said the UK has an export ban on vaccines (Image: GETTY)
They, in turn, have been casting blame on drug companies for failing to meet delivery targets, including AstraZeneca, which makes COVID-19 vaccines both in Britain and the EU and has declined to divert British doses to the bloc to meet a shortfall there.
The EU says it has allowed millions of doses of Pfizer vaccines, which Britain does not make, to be exported there. On Tuesday, European Council President Charles Michel claimed Britain, like the United States, had “outright” banned exports of vaccines produced on its territory.
London dismissed the claim, pointing out it has no such ban, and credits the success of its vaccine programme to strong negotiations with drug companies last year and early investment in supply chains.
EU officials say London has effectively prevented exports of AstraZeneca vaccines by invoking a clause in its contract that requires the company to fulfil Britain’s order first.
Coronavirus vaccine doses administered in the world as of March (Image: EXPRESS)
Mr Johnson told Parliament he had to “correct” Mr Michel’s suggestion.
His government had “not blocked the export of any single COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine components”, he said.
The foreign office said it had summoned EU charge d’affaires Nicole Mannion “to discuss the issue of incorrect assertions in recent EU communications”.
Asked whether Britain was using its AstraZeneca contract to effectively block exports, a spokesman for Mr Johnson said: “The movement of vaccines and their components into and out of the UK is driven by contractual obligations that vaccine suppliers have to their customers.”
Brexit news: Weber told Raab ‘stop lecturing and show Britain’s export data’ (Image: GETTY)
After initially saying Britain had imposed an “outright” export ban, Mr Michel later said there were “different ways of imposing bans or restrictions on vaccines”.
An EU official said the bloc had allowed exports of 8 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines to Britain since January 30, and many more earlier.
Manfred Weber, head of the largest political group in the European Parliament, told Britain’s foreign secretary to “stop lecturing and to show Britain’s export data.”