BRITAIN stands ready to help the EU with its coronavirus vaccine supplies, the vaccines minister has said.
It comes after the bloc, which is facing ongoing difficulty securing sufficient numbers of doses, dropped plans to stop exports of jabs at the Northern Irish border.
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The government has indicated it is willing to help the European Union with its vaccine supply issuesCredit: Getty Images – Getty
It comes after the bloc dropped plans to stop exports of jabs at the Northern Irish border.Credit: Reuters
The EU ongoing difficulty securing sufficient numbers of vaccine dosesCredit: PA:Press Association
Speaking to the Telegraph, Nadhim Zahawi, the minister currently overseeing the UK’s vaccine programme, said the government said the government now wanted to focus on “collaboration” with the EU.
He also said the UK had gone “out of [its] way” to help the EU with its supply issues and would “continue to do so”.
The EU caused outrage on Friday when it invoked Article 16 which stopped vaccines travelling from the bloc into the UK.
It then U-turned on the move late on Friday after Prime Minister Boris Johnson spoke with Commission president Ursula von der Leyen by phone to express “grave concern” about the situation.
Zahawi’s comments come after the prime minister was earlier urged to send leftover Covid vaccines to the Republic of Ireland by Northern Irish first minister Arlene Foster.
Speaking to BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme, Foster said the UK could help “our neighbours in the Republic” by offering any spare AtraZeneca jabs.
“Because of their membership of the EU, they have not been able to access the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine in the way, I am sure, they would have liked to if they had been a sovereign country,” she said.
Tory MP Andrew Bridgen had also called on the government to help the Republic but suggested that the EU may prevent vaccine-sharing between the countries.
Writing in the Pavlovik Today, he said it is “clearly in the UK’s interest to help the Republic of Ireland wherever we could as they are our closest neighbours and the only country with a land border”.
Ireland has a vaccination rate of three per cent, behind Northern Irlenad’s 10.4 per cent and the UK’s near 12%.
‘INCREDIBLE ACT OF HOSTILITY’
The 3.5million life-saving jabs ordered from a Pfizer BioNTech in Belgium will now enter the UK, Ursula von der Leyen said today.
The PM also condemned the act, which meant the bloc overrode part of the Brexit deal to effectively create a hard border in Ireland.
A No10 spokesperson said: “The Prime Minister spoke to EU Commission president Ursula Von Der Leyen yesterday evening.
“He expressed his grave concerns about the potential impact which the steps the EU has taken today on vaccine exports could have.”
Foster branded it an “incredible act of hostility” and accused Brussels of playing politics with people’s lives.
“The European Union has once again shown it is prepared to use Northern Ireland when it suits their interests but in the most despicable manner – over the provision of a vaccine which is designed to save lives,” she said.
“At the first opportunity the EU has placed a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland over the supply chain of the Coronavirus vaccine.”
She said the EU had used Article 16 of the Brexit deal in an “aggressive and most shameful way” and “it is now time for our Government to step up”.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove said this afternoon the EU “recognises they made a mistake” and “stepped back” following the conversation between the two leaders.
He said: “We’re confident, we have assurances, that the supply that we have procured, the supply that we have paid for, is going to be delivered.”
The EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier today called for “co-operation” between Brussels and the UK.
Mr Barnier told The Times: “We are facing an extraordinarily serious crisis, which is creating a lot of suffering, which is causing a lot of deaths in the UK, in France, in Germany, everywhere.
“And I believe we must face this crisis with responsibility, certainly not with the spirit of oneupmanship or unhealthy competition. I recommend preserving the spirit of co-operation between us.”
Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster earlier said the UK should help ‘our neighbours in the Republic’Credit: PA:Press Association