EU leaders to rule on vaccine export ban plan TODAY – as even ex Brussels boss Juncker slams eurocrats' sabre-rattling
EUROPEAN leaders are poised to green-light new powers to ban exports of vaccines to Britain amid uproar at the plan both here and on the continent.
The EU's 27 prime ministers and presidents will hold a crunch video call this afternoon to discuss new plans to target the UK's successful jabs rollout.
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But they are deeply divided over the highly controversial blueprint, with many fearing a tit-for-tat conflict would hit their own supplies.
The EU Commission called a truce with No 10 last night so both sides can work on a solution amid growing protest within the bloc.
And some key countries have suggested they will resist using the new powers to ban exports if the policy is passed – rendering it useless.
It comes after Emmanuel Macron today finally admitted that Europe has messed up its vaccination rollout.
The French president said EU countries underestimated the ability of scientists to quickly develop vaccines.
He said: "We didn’t shoot for the stars. That should be a lesson for all of us.
"We were wrong to lack ambition, to lack the madness, to say 'It’s possible, let’s do it'.
“We didn’t go fast enough, strong enough on this. We thought the vaccines would take time to take off."
And today Matt Hancock ripped into the bloc, saying it's lagging behind because it signed sub-standard contracts with drug makers.
He told the FT: "I believe that free trading nations follow the law of contracts.
“They have a ‘best efforts’ contract and we have an exclusivity deal. Our contract trumps theirs.
"It’s called contract law — it’s very straightforward.”
The health secretary also said the EU's protectionist approach would see science companies flock to Britain in the future.
He added: “In the UK you can export anywhere in the world — we’re never going to put a stop to that."
Brussels' plan has also been heavily criticised by scientists, with Sage boffin Sir Jeremy Farrar branding it "very regrettable".
He said: "We need to make vaccines available to everybody, we need to have a free flow of contracts honoured.
"I hope we now see an outbreak of statecraft and skilled diplomacy and frankly leadership.
"Science has really delivered over the last year and now we really do need our politicians to make sure that we make that science available to the most number of people all over the world."
The blueprint is even taking heavy fire from within the bloc, with ex Commission boss Jean-Claude Juncker saying a vaccine war would be "stupid".
He told the BBC: "I'm not a fan of this idea. This could create major reputational damage to the EU, who used to be the world free trade champion.
"I don't think this is the right way to do it. We have to pull back from a vaccine war.
"Nobody understands why we're witnessing such a stupid vaccine war. This cannot be dealt with in a war atmosphere.
"We are not in war and we are not enemies we are allies. We have a special relations with Britain there's room for dialogue."
Mr Juncker said the EU had been "too cautious" on approving vaccines and "too budget conscious" in wasting time haggling over prices.
He said the fixation on cost was a "a major mistake which should not have happened".
Chief eurocrat Ursula von der Leyen has moved to beef up the Europe's export ban as the continent faces a devastating third wave.
Up until now the bloc has only had powers to stop shipments abroad by companies not honouring their contracts with it.
But under the new rules it will be able to actively target deliveries to countries that are doing better than Europe in beating the pandemic.
They have expanded the scope of their powers to target countries that they feel aren't treating the bloc "fairly".
France and Italy are backing the plan, as is Germany although it has reservations about how it would be used.
Other nations like Ireland, the Netherlands, Belgium, and Sweden against because they're worried about starting a vaccines war with Britain.
Brussels has repeatedly complained that it has exported 10 million jabs to Britain, mostly of the Pfizer jab, without receiving any in reply.
British officials insist so-called "reciprocity" is about more than just finished vaccines.
They say the UK plays a crucial role in providing the continent with raw materials and has ploughed millions into developing new shots.
The new EU law takes aim at "countries which have a large production capacity of their own" but "restrict their own exports to the Union".
In a reference to Britain it says this can be "either by law or through contractual or other arrangements concluded with vaccine manufacturers."
Eurocrats complain: "This imbalance leads to shortages of supply within the Union."
Brussels has claimed that the UK's contract with AstraZeneca, which gives us first dibs on the vaccine, amounts to a "de facto export ban".
Shipments may also be blocked to countries "which have a higher vaccination rate or where the current epidemiological situation is less serious".
For these countries, the regulation states: "Member States should refuse export authorisations accordingly."
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