Vaccine row: UK 'playing game of poker' with EU says expert
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Charles-Henri Gallois, nicknamed Mr Frexit for his efforts to cut ties between Paris and Brussels, maintains Europe would be “more effective” as a continent if member states were not under the auspices of the EU. His attack comes as the EU’s vaccine debacle drags on two months after the bloc’s rollout was thrown up in the air by a setback in deliveries of the AstraZeneca jab.
And this week a diplomatic row erupted when EU Council President Charles Michel accused Britain of slapping on an “outright ban” on exports of Covid vaccines.
Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab hit back at the claim, calling his words “completely false”.
Mr Gallois took to Twitter to publicly accused France’s EU minister Clement Beaune and the French industry minister Agnès Pannier-Runacher of failing to tell the truth about vaccines.
He tweeted: “Europe is more effective without the European Union!
“When the lies of Beaune and Runacher meet reality regarding COVID-19 vaccinations.”
He added the hashtag “Let’s take back control”.
The EU’s efforts to vaccinate Europeans against the coronavirus has been marred by a series of setbacks in recent months.
The bloc is trailing the UK in the vaccine stakes, something which German Chancellor Angela Merkel has admitted “rankles”.
European leaders are coming under increasing pressure over the slow distribution of jabs.
Mr Michel said he felt “shocked” to hear the club of nations was being accused of “vaccine nationalism” in light of changes made to export rules earlier this year.
In his weekly briefing note, he wrote: “Here again, the facts do not lie.
“The United Kingdom and the United States have imposed an outright ban on the export of vaccines or vaccine components produced on their territory.
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“But the European Union, the region with the largest vaccine production capacity in the world, has simply put in place a system for controlling the export of doses produced in the EU.”
The Prime Minister hit back at Brussels, telling MPs on Wednesday that the UK has not “blocked the export of a single COVID-19 vaccine” as he sought to correct Mr Michel’s suggestion.
A senior EU diplomat was summoned to the Foreign Office on Wednesday morning over the row.
Mr Raab has also written to Mr Michel seeking to correct the record.
So far, more than 23 million people in the UK have received the first dose of the Covid vaccine.
The latest data shows nearly 90 percent of over-60s in England have been given their first jab.
Mr Gallois’ slapdown of the EU comes after French President Emmanuel Macron did not rule out a vaccine partnership with Russia.
An adviser to the president left the door open for Paris to sign a contract with Moscow on its Sputnik V jab.
The adviser said: “It’s one topic on which we can have a positive cooperation.
“One of the difficulties Sputnik is facing is having access to production capacity for the volumes they would want.”
The European Medicines Agency (EMA) has not yet approved Sputnik V, but has began reviewing the shot for possible approval.
Additional reporting by Maria Ortega.
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