The EU could block the export of coronavirus vaccines to Britain if Boris Johnson’s government does not comply with the terms of the Brexit trade agreement, the bloc’s internal commissioner Thierry Breton has suggested.
In an interview with French news player Le Figaro, EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton issued a warning to London about the need to respect the terms of the UK exit agreement signed in December 2020, specifically with the issue of Covid-19 vaccines.
England “Imports half of its vaccines from the EU and also from India,” Breton told Le Figaro. Its dependence on external vaccine sources could be increased, he noted, pointing to the rapid spread of the Delta variant of the virus. He added that MRNA vaccines such as the Pfizer-BioNTech jab bulb provide the best protection against the variant – and that the British had not expected to be so dependent on imports of vaccines from other countries.
The interview came on the fifth anniversary of the Brexit vote, which the Bretons slammed as a big mistake.
Brexit has been a terrible misconception that isolates the United Kingdom.
Breton also criticized Johnson for postponing the so-called “Irish Protocol”, an agreement containing provisions on the control of goods traded between the United Kingdom and Northern Ireland, which, thanks to Brexit, has become the EU’s external border with a third country.
On Tuesday, Britain’s Brexit minister and top negotiator David Frost reiterated his desire to see “A more pragmatic proach from the European Union” on the subject. According to Breton, however, the trade agreement must be fully implemented and the trade complied with.
“We are definitely not going back on what was signed” Breton responded, arguing that the time for pragmatism was over. Breton went on to say that the trade agreement establishing trade without quotas or tariffs is “In jeopardy due to Boris Johnson’s inability to honor it”.
Breton’s comments follow a statement from the European Commission earlier this month reiterating Britain’s full implementation of the Irish protocol.
The comments came after the United Kingdom asked the EU to suspend the so-called ‘sausage ban’ and ask to extend the deadline for banning the sale of chilled meat exports from the UK to Northern Ireland, which is due to expire at the end of June.
The EU countered that this would only be possible if the UK complied with the Irish Protocol, under which strict phytosanitary controls are to be carried out on imports of fresh food from the UK at the Northern Irish border.
The measure aims to protect the EU’s internal market while avoiding a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, which is an EU country.
British officials have claimed that the red tea has disrupted Northern Ireland supply chains, causing supermarkets in the country to experience product shortages earlier this year.
Four vaccines have been proven for use in the UK: Pfizer-BioNTech, manufactured in Europe; Oxford-AstraZeneca (developed and manufactured in the United Kingdom); and the American-made Moderna and Janssen jabs.
The EU had previously criticized the UK, claiming it had an unfair advantage in contracts signed with vaccine manufacturers, some of which have factories in the EU. In March, EU leaders considered banning the export of vaccines to the UK, but decided against it and instead called for greater transparency from the UK in terms of the number of doses it exports.
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