Vaccine War: EU to Block Pfizer Vaccine Exports to UK, Making Sure Europe Gets “Fair Share”
Ursula von der Leyen, President of the European Commission, has threatened to block vaccine exports to the UK and other countries with high rollouts of coronavirus jabs so that Europe can get it’s “fair share”.
Today, the President of the European Commission threatened to trigger Article 122, an emergency clause that would allow EU seizure of factories, the waiving of intellectual property rights and patents and the imposition of export bans on jabs.
Von der Leyen, demanding that the UK sends British-manufactured AstraZeneca vaccines to the EU, stated that:
“All options are on the table. We are in the crisis of the century and I'm not ruling out anything for now. We have to make sure Europeans are vaccinated as soon as possible.”
She labelled Britain as "country number one" in regards to its benefit from EU vaccine exports, adding that her remarks were “about making sure that Europe gets a fair share." Article 122, which allows the implementation of "measures appropriate to the economic situation” if “severe difficulties arise in the supply of certain products.” The clause, if triggered, will allow the EU to seize factory stocks of the vaccine, waive property rights and ban exports to the UK.
In January, rising tensions resulted in the EU demanding deliveries of the UK-manufactured AstraZeneca jab after von der Leyen accused Britain of appropriating vaccine deliveries that were originally destined for the EU. In response, the President of the European Commission attempted to violate the Brexit withdrawal agreement by triggering Article 16, imposing a hard border between the UK and Ireland but withdrew the threat following wide-scale outrage.
The continent is facing a third wave of the coronavirus while less than a tenth of its population has been vaccinated. Ms von der Leyen accused AstraZeneca and the UK of having "underproduced and under-delivered,” stating:
“If this situation does not change, we will have to reflect on how to make exports to vaccine-producing countries, dependent on their level of openness. We will reflect on whether exports to countries that have higher vaccination rates than us are still proportionate.”
When asked why she was sparking a “vaccine war” with the UK, Ms von der Leyen said she wanted to highlight the need for “reciprocity”, insisting that she trusted AstraZeneca and the vaccines although seventeen EU countries have suspended the AstraZeneca jab over blood clot fears. Talking to Reuters, Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab suggested that von der Leyen to explained herself, stating:
“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. Frankly, I'm surprised we're having this conversation.”
UK government sources accused the EU of “attacking” AstraZeneca, citing Italy’s obstruction of the delivery of 250,000 doses to Australia. Boris Johnson's official spokesman said in response to the EU’s threats:
"I would point you back to the conversation the Prime Minister had with Ursula von der Leyen earlier this year. She confirmed then that the focus of their mechanism was on transparency and not intended to restrict exports by companies where they are fulfilling their contractual responsibilities. It remains the case we would expect the EU to continue to stand by its commitment."