UK summons EU delegation over ’completely false’ vaccine claim

UK summons EU delegation over ’completely false’ vaccine claim

LONDON-Agence France-Presse
UK summons EU delegation over ’completely false’ vaccine claim

Britain on March 9 summoned the EU’s U.K. delegation and wrote to European Council chief Charles Michel in protest over his claim that the country had imposed a vaccine export ban.

The latest row between Britain and the EU erupted when Michel wrote in his newsletter that "the United Kingdom and the United States have imposed an outright ban on the export of vaccines or vaccine components produced on their territory."

The remarks sparked anger in London, with Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab registering his complaints in a letter sent to Michel.

"I wanted to set the record straight. The U.K. government has not blocked the export of a single COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine components," Raab said in the letter, according to the Foreign Office.

"Any references to a U.K. export ban or any restrictions on vaccines are completely false.

"We are all facing this pandemic together."

The ministry added that Britain had summoned the EU’s representative in London over the issue.

"Given that this false claim has been repeated at various levels within the EU and the Commission...a representative of the EU’s delegation to the U.K. has been summoned to a meeting... to discuss the issue further," it said.

It is the latest in a series of ugly vaccine spats since Britain fully left the EU in January.

The EU is under pressure over its much-criticized COVID-19 inoculation strategy, while Britain has been largely praised for its mass vaccine rollout and is eyeing a total easing of restrictions by June.

The EU partly blames Anglo-Swedish firm AstraZeneca for failing to fulfil its order due to production problems in its European factories.

Brussels, Dublin and London were plunged into chaos on January 29 when the EU unveiled plans to unilaterally undo elements of the Brexit deal’s "Northern Ireland protocol" in order to prevent vaccines leaving the bloc.

The special post-Brexit trade rules - painstakingly negotiated since Britain’s 2016 decision to split from the bloc to guarantee peace in Northern Ireland - had been operating for less than one month.

An outcry from Britain, Ireland and Northern Ireland forced the EU into a speedy U-turn - reversing a plan now widely considered to have been a diplomatic bungle.