Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
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The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.

The EU’s Vaccine Nationalism Must Not Be Tolerated in a Global Crisis


For all the grand declarations of "new beginnings for old friends", Ursula von der Leyen's most recent assault on the British people again exposed the wolf behind the wool. Despite the midnight back-track, the fact that the European Commission had believed itself justified to announce plans for a vaccine export ban, cannot be easily forgiven.

Those who have been following the Brexit saga closely will find themselves unsurprised by the EU's dangerous flirtation with the politics of vaccine nationalism. It was only months ago that vicious von der Leyen effectively threatened to blockade the free movement of goods within our own country, and, in the aftermath of a bitter separation, there is no doubt the dynamics of our new relationship with the EU is starting to look a lot like China and Taiwan.

At the first opportunity, the EU proved willing to violate an agreement with its old 'friend' the United Kingdom without warning and invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to prevent EU-made vaccines from being distributed to the wider UK; thus, creating a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic over the vaccine supply chain.

Could it possibly be that the EU's concern for the backstop only ever extended as far as Northern Ireland's worth as a bargaining chip? One can only imagine President Biden's shock.

While von der Leyen has climbed down from a full export ban, this U-turn is not our victory. It's the start of a war. A war that goes beyond Brexit and Britain. A war that started with a raid.

Despite backtracking on Northern Ireland, the Commission is still introducing new measures to give its individual member states the power to block exports of the Coronavirus vaccine. This new system of export control will impact global vaccine deliveries. Pfizer, for example, must now complete an export form and wait up to 48 hours for their export request to be approved or denied by the Belgian government when dispatching doses from its Antwerp site.

The EU's vaccine shortfall is a mess entirely of its own making, which somehow the rest of the world is being made to pay for, with decisions over vaccine exports now being made based on whether a company can prove that taking that batch of vaccine would not affect the existing EU agreement.

The European commission has categorically failed EU voters with its musketeer approach to procuring Coronavirus vaccinations in the first place. The lazy allegation that the block is being treated as "second class" by AstraZeneca in particular is misleading given their contract is a "best effort" agreement rather than a 100 per cent commitment that the desired number of doses would be delivered by the end of March.

Brussels is also yet to deliver a substantial amount of the €300 million (£265m) pledged to help produce the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine in mass quantities and, on top of all this, it bears remembering that the EU was far too slow to negotiate with AstraZeneca, having signed its agreement three months after the ink dried on Britain's. Tighter export controls on vaccinations are nothing more than a frantic bid to disguise these homespun disasters.

Until now, the EU had closely aligned itself with the World Health Organisation on matters of international health policy and broadly recognised there was a need for a global response to managing the Coronavirus. However, the plans outlined by the European Commission yesterday afternoon ultimately signal a new age of separatism for the bloc.

Poignantly, mere days ago German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, had said "This is the hour of multilateralism" and "the attempt to isolate fails long term, at least in relation to this pandemic". French President, Emmanuel Macron, had expressed the "need to build an efficient multilateral system that will allow a new consensus." Ursula von der Leyen herself had affirmed that, in order to face an outstanding set of challenges, "we must work together, that is what we all have to learn again."

Amidst all the murky finger-pointing, one truth rings clear. The ugly vaccine nationalism that many feared is here - and it's started in Europe.

What the world intends to do about it is yet to be seen. 

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Director : Robert Oulds
Tel: 020 7287 4414
Chairman: Barry Legg
The Bruges Group
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Founder President :
The Rt Hon. the Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven LG, OM, FRS 
Vice-President : The Rt Hon. the Lord Lamont of Lerwick,
Chairman: Barry Legg
Director : Robert Oulds MA, FRSA
Washington D.C. Representative : John O'Sullivan CBE
Founder Chairman : Lord Harris of High Cross
Head of Media: Jack Soames