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'Big red flag!' Brexiteer warns EU will punish British business in wake of UK vaccine war

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The EU boss has warned Brussels might put the block on vaccine exports to the UK as Britain surges head of its European neighbours in the race to get the population vaccinated against COVID-19. But pro-Brexit commentator Tom Harwood said the same tactic could be used to stop any EU-based businesses sending their goods abroad.

The EU doesn’t see you as a company – they see you as their property

Tom Harwood

Some British firms have announced plans to open new bases within the EU to avoid the additional costs, red tape and lengthy delays to export deliveries caused by new trading rules which came into force after Brexit at the start of the year.

But Mr Harwood warned: “Big red flag for companies thinking of basing themselves in the EU.

“The EU doesn’t see you as a company – they see you as their property.

“And they will stop you from fulfilling your contracts if those contracts start to make the EU look bad.”

He issued his warning in response to a tweet from Ms von der Leyen who has faced scathing criticism over the way Brussels has handled the EU’s vaccination programme.

Ursula von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen has threatened to ban vaccine exports to the UK (Image: GETTY)

The European Commission president criticised British-Swedish drug giant AstraZeneca for having “underproduced and underdelivered” to the bloc.

She said: “The EU has been exporting vaccines in support of global cooperation.

“But open roads run in both directions.

“If needed we’ll reflect on how to adjust our exports based on reciprocity and, in the case of countries with higher vaccination rates than us, proportionality.”

Downing Street urged the EU to “stand by its commitment” not to restrict exports, with the Pfizer jab being produced in BioNTech’s German manufacturing sites as well as in Pfizer’s own site in Belgium.

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Ursula von der Leyen

Ursula von der Leyen has sparked outrage with her export ban threats (Image: GETTY)

Ursula von der Leyen

The EU boss is under huge pressure after a disastrous vaccine programme (Image: GETTY)

But with parts of the EU on the “crest of a third wave” of infections, Ms von der Leyen warned she is “ready to use whatever tool we need” to ensure the reliable delivery of vaccines.

She told reporters in Brussels: “We are exporting a lot to countries that are themselves producing vaccines and we think this is an invitation to be open, so that we also see exports from those countries coming back to the European Union.

“The second point that is of importance to us: we will reflect on whether exports to countries who have higher vaccination rates than us are still proportionate.

“We want reliable deliveries of vaccines, we want an increase in the contracts, we want to see reciprocity and proportionality in exports and we are ready to use whatever tool we need to deliver on that.

“This is about making sure that Europe gets its fair share.”

Ms von der Leyen defended the EU against a charge of “vaccine nationalism”, arguing the bloc has granted 314 requests for vaccine exports and has only refused one since export authorisation was introduced on February 1.

Ms von der Leyen said “41 million doses have been exported to 33 countries” as she warned “open roads run in both directions”.

The EU rate of vaccine doses administered per 100 people stands at 11.81, according to a tracker on the Our World In Data website.

This compares to the UK’s rate of 39.04 and the US’s 33.11.

Ms von der Leyen made clear the UK is not a nation where she deems there is “reciprocity” in terms of vaccine supply, describing it as “country number one” in terms of exports from the EU.

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Global vaccination figures

Global vaccination figures (Image: EXPRESS.CO.UK)

She said: “Where the UK is concerned, we have observed that in the last six weeks 10 million doses by now have been exported to the UK.

“Indeed the UK is producing AstraZeneca. In our contract with AstraZeneca, there are even two sites in the UK that are put in the contract for potential deliveries for the European Union.

“We are still waiting for doses to come from the UK, so this is an invitation to show us that there are also doses from the UK coming to the European Union so that we have reciprocity.”

Downing Street pointed to an apparent commitment received from Ms von der Leyen as the EU backtracked on its widely-condemned move to impose vaccine controls by overriding part of the Brexit agreement on Northern Ireland.

After emergency calls between Mr Johnson and the commission president in January, ministers said they were reassured the EU had no desire to block supplies.



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