EU split over blocking jabs to UK

European leaders are divided over whether to proceed with a preposterous ban on vaccine exports to Britain.

Sources within Brussels have confirmed that the European Union is ready to block a shipment of the AstraZeneca vaccine to the UK from a plant in the Netherlands.

This outrageous plot has provoked a major rift among leaders of EU member states ahead of a key summit due to take place on Thursday.

A senior EU official has described internal talks on the issue as a 'total s*** show'.

UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson has launched a diplomatic offensive in recent days in a bid to head off a ban which could delay the UK's vaccine programme.

The PM has sent his senior adviser Lord Lister to India for talks on unblocking a shipment of five million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine delayed last week on orders of the New Delhi government.

European Commission President, Ursula von der Leyen warned last week she was ready to block vaccine exports to the UK as part of a 'Europe first' agenda designed to ensure that AstraZeneca and other drug firms meet their commitments to the bloc before supplying others.

Both France and Germany indicated that they will back the hardline position of von der Leyen.

French Europe Minister Clement Beaune, a close ally of French president Emmanuel Macron, said Paris also backed Mrs von der Leyen's plans, stating 'This must be the strategy of a Europe that moves faster and defends its interests: produce more, enforce contracts, and control exports,'.

However, a number of EU countries are alarmed by the idea of blocking exports, amid fears it could do serious international damage to its reputation as a place to do business.

Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin warned that a ban would be 'a very retrograde step' which would prove counter-productive.

Martin, who could face the prospect of the EU imposing a hard border with Northern Ireland to prevent vaccines entering the UK, said he had made it 'very clear' to fellow leaders he was opposed.

'They're not EU vaccines,' he said. 'These are vaccines paid for by other countries that are manufactured in Europe.'

The Netherlands also opposes the vaccine ban, with Dutch PM Mark Rutte pushing for emergency talks between Mr Johnson, Mrs von der Leyen and AstraZeneca to thrash out a compromise.

EU sources yesterday suggested the first action against the UK was likely to be a block on the export of AstraZeneca vaccines from the Halix plant in the Netherlands.

The Dutch plan would see No 10 agree to free up some production capacity at the plant, which currently supplies only Britain, to make jabs for Europe as well.

Belgium, where the Pfizer jab is produced, also opposes the ban, fearing it could hamper supply chains worldwide. 

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