The former leader of the Conservative Party admitted, after a recent online meeting with the former European Commission president, he found himself “reflecting that the EU Commission might be in better shape if he was still in charge of it”. Mr Hague was surprised by his own reaction to the chat he had with Mr Juncker, bearing in mind that he had joined in the UK’s efforts to resist Mr Juncker’s ascent to the top of the European Commission in 2014. Mr Hague blamed his change of heart on how Ms von der Leyen, Mr Juncker’s replacement, is mishandling the EU vaccination scheme.
Mr Hague said Ms von der Leyen’s handling of the inoculation roll-out and subsequent threats of banning vital jabs reaching the UK was “among the most dismal in its existence”.
He added: “And the damage being done, to future trust, mutual reliance, and the ability to respond to future pandemics in the long term, is adding up by the day.”
Mr Hague listed the mistakes made by the EU amid the coronavirus pandemic, from the Commission being “too slow to commit itself to likely suppliers” to the reliance on a French vaccine that did not deliver.
He added the EU’s actions, from threatening to “restrict the flow of vaccines to Northern Ireland” to constantly berating the efficacy of the UK’s AstraZeneca mainstay inoculation, made it “difficult to assist” the bloc.
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“This brings the regular need for booster shots and the adaptation of vaccines to a mutating virus.
“In addition, the last year has shown us that we have to be far better prepared for more frequent and perhaps more deadly pandemics in the future.
“As long as we persist in cutting down rainforests to grow palm oil or graze cattle, and transport wild animals for slaughter and consumption, the likelihood of more zoonotic diseases jumping to humans is going to rise.”
In light of this, he pointed to EU “vaccine nationalism” as “hugely wasteful”.
The manufacture of modern vaccines takes an international effort and Mr Hague said that it would be “less effective for each nation to think that it had to do all of this on its own territory”.
He added: “EU leaders should draw back from compounding a series of errors with an even bigger one.”
Mr Hague then advised the UK to “extend the offer of co-operation with the superb facilities we are creating to many nations around the world”.
He hoped that “their reciprocal commitment was guaranteed”.