Michael Gove says he is ‘confident’ the UK can carry out vaccinations as planned (Credits: Reuters)
After a tense evening in which the EU tried to block the flow of vaccines across the Irish border, the UK says it can carry out its immunisation programme ‘exactly as planned’.
Faced with widespread condemnation and accusations of covering up for their own failures, Brussels performed a U-turn just a few hours later and said they would not override part of the Brexit agreement designed to maintain stability in the island of Ireland.
Speaking to Sky News today, Cabinet Office Minister Micheal Gove said: ‘We’re confident that we can proceed with our vaccine programmes exactly as planned.
‘Last night the Prime Minister talked to President von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, and made clear that we need to have the contracts that have been entered into honoured properly.
‘And it was made clear that that supply would not be interrupted so we can proceed with our plans and make sure that our so far highly-successful vaccination programme can continue.’
Gove said the EU recognises it ‘made a mistake’ in its short lived to block vaccine exports into Northern Ireland, whose open border helps keep the region’s unique and delicate political balance in check.
Brussels was angered after vaccine maker AstraZeneca warned of a 60% shortfall of deliveries due to production issues, leaving the bloc around 75million havs short.
The European Commission suspects the Cambridge-based pharmaceutical giant has given preferential treatment to Britain, and even sent inspectors to pay a surprise visit to the firm’s plant in Belgium to see if there really was a problem.
AstraZeneca CEO, Pascal Soriot, insisted it had also had ‘teething issues’ with Britain’s supply – but because UK officials signed its contract three months earlier than the bloc, the disruption was fixed ahead of the EU.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen was busy with calls last night, as London, Dublin and Belfast demanded to know what was going on (Picture: TNS)
Despite criticism from the World Health Organisation, the EU is pushing ahead with imposing controls on vaccines manufactured within member states, which it is feared could hinder the UK’s access to further supplies, particularly to the Belgian-made Pfizer jab.
Brussels has also demanded doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in British plants, to solve its supply shortage issues, but Downing Street has refused to bow to these demands.
Today Gove told reporters: ‘The Prime Minister was very clear, we’ve entered into contractual arrangements with AstraZeneca and Pfizer and we expect those arrangements to be honoured.
‘And President von der Leyen was clear that she understood exactly the UK Government’s position, so we expect that those contracts will be honoured, we expect that vaccines will continue to be supplied.’
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