Ursula von der Leyen will tomorrow unveil tweaked powers to keep hold of millions of life-saving Covid vaccines produced at an AstraZeneca plant in the Netherlands. The European Commission President will use her draconian export ban to demand the lion’s share of doses made at the plant because the EU’s vaccination scheme is going so badly. Eurocrats will be able to take into account Britain’s high vaccination rates and contribution to the bloc’s immunisation drive when authorising shipments to our shores.
But veteran leader Angela Merkel warned against pursuing a full-blown vaccines war with the UK.
It comes after Mrs von der Leyen threatened to ban the export of all Covid jabs because AstraZeneca had failed to deliver enough doses to EU nations.
Plans for the bloc’s revised export ban are due to be discussed on Thursday at a virtual summit of European leaders.
German Chancellor Mrs Merkel threw her weight behind imposing tougher curbs on the export of AstraZeneca vaccines outside the bloc.
And France threatened to “stop exports to the UK” in order to get the EU’s shambolic vaccine scheme back on track.
Mrs Merkel dismissed calls for a “general export ban” targeted at Britain, warning it could hit the EU’s supply chains.
She added: “We have a problem with AstraZeneca — that is well known. We are exporting to the rest of the world — and bear in mind that other parts of the world are exporting nothing at all.”
The UK was branded as the “number one” target for the bloc’s export ban last week by Mrs von der Leyen.
Berlin doesn’t want Brussels to scupper its supply of Pfizer jabs, which use ingredients made in Yorkshire, over the row with AstraZeneca.
The Anglo-Swedish drugs giant has repeatedly cut forecasts for the number of doses it expects to ship to member states.
French Europe minister Clement Beaune said: “We want to avoid that AstraZeneca doses produced in Europe go to Britain when we are not receiving anything.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson has proposed sharing production capacity at the firm’s plant in the Netherlands.
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The EU has complained it has shipped 10 million jabs to the UK – mostly Belgian-made Pfizer – without receiving any back in return.
But British officials argue that ignores the fact that Britain has played a leading role in the global vaccination drive.
The UK has forked out £88million and sent experts abroad to help AstraZeneca boost production, and ships raw materials to Belgium for the Pfizer vaccine.