EU POLL: Should Boris call EU's bluff and strike back if vaccine export ban enforced? VOTE

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last week threatened the UK with an AstraZeneca vaccine export ban amid huge struggles with its own rollout programme throughout the bloc a simmering war of words with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca. More than half of UK adults have now received at least one vaccine jab, compared with just over ten percent for the continent. Tensions ramped up significantly over the weekend when Angela Merkel told the Prime Minister in a phone call the EU had shipped more than 34 million doses abroad but received “almost nothing” in return from the UK or US.

The leading European Union figurehead told Mr Johnson it was “right” for Commission president Ms von der Leyen to explore ways to further restrict shipment until AstraZeneca delivers more doses to member states.

Last weekend, EU chief Ms von der Leyen suggested she could block a shipment of up to 10 million doses to the UK from an AstraZeneca factory in the Netherlands.

The EU is looking to seize control of millions of doses from the drug maker made at the Halix plant that are destined for Britain.

Britain has so far not taken an overly-aggressive stance on the issue but Mujtaba Rahman, now managing director, Europe at the Eurasia Group political consultancy, would be making a “miscalculation” if it believes the UK will not hit back – a move that risks triggering a full-blown trade war.

Mr Rahman tweeted: “Dominant view in Bxl (Brussels) is that Govt won’t retaliate if EU implements an export ban.

“If we end up in a tit-for-tat trade war, it will be because of this EU miscalculation.”

In response, Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at Germany’s Peterson Institute, questioned what kind of retaliatory measures Britain might enforce?

He tweeted: “If AZ “as a firm” decides to deliver Halix supply to EU, while the EU refrains from a general export ban (i.e. not touching Pfizer), what precisely will UK Gov do?”

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“It won’t win any friends in the Member States either if its actions prompt a retaliatory ban from the UK. Germ warfare is not cool.”

British and EU officials have held talks over possibly dividing up supplies if the bloc agrees to drop demands for British-made vaccines to be shipped to the continent.

The compromise is expected to be put before EU leader on Thursday during a video summit.

But a European Commission spokesman warned: “This is not about banning vaccine exports. This is about making sure companies deliver on their commitments to the EU.”

Speaking on Tuesday, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain did not believe in imposing vaccine blockades.

He told a Downing Street press conference: “We’ll continue to work with European partners to deliver the vaccine rollout.

“All I can say is we in this country don’t believe in blockades of any kind of vaccines or vaccine materials.

“It’s not something that this country would dream of engaging in and I’m encouraged in some of the things I’ve heard from the continent in the same sense.”

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