EU on brink: UK ‘hugely attractive to US’ after Brussels’ embroiled in vaccine farce

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Downing Street’s astonishing success in acquiring and delivering COVID-19 vaccines means more than 10 million people in the UK have received their first dose. In contrast, the EU has been floundering, especially after UK-based vaccine developer AstraZeneca revealed that it would not be able to meet the 80 million doses it had initially promised to the bloc. The EU’s rash decision to then invoke an emergency measure of the Brexit deal and prevent any unimpeded vaccine supplies entering Northern Ireland from the EU member state of the Republic of Ireland was widely condemned.

To add to the humiliation, the bloc withdrew the measure just hours later and confessed it had made a mistake.

This dramatic move also came before the EU had actually approved the vaccine, and there are still scientific spheres within the bloc which claim to have doubts over AstraZeneca’s effectiveness for those over 65.

For such events to unfold while US President Joe Biden is still settling into the White House could prove significant.

Former aide to George W Bush and commentator on US foreign policy, Peter Rough, told that while the EU’s lack of success may not impact its relationship with the Biden administration, the UK’s efficiency with the vaccine rollout may make it a more appealing partner to the States.

He explained: “I don’t think the bungled vaccine rollout will have transatlantic repercussions.

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“Had the EU proceeded to harden the NI-Ireland border, as it threatened, London would have found a sympathetic voice in Washington.”

Mr Biden is proud of his Irish heritage and has regularly warned the UK and the EU that the Irish border must remain open.

This was a major sticking point in Brexit negotiations, too, as all sides were keen to avoid a revival of violence on the border.

Brussels’ decision to therefore block the passage between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland last week alarmed representatives across the Atlantic.

However, Mr Rough continued: “But since they pulled back I don’t see this specific issue as having long-term effects.

“I do think that Britain’s success in rolling out its vaccine relative to the EU is emblematic of a broader dynamic, though.

“The vaccine imbroglio showed how the EU can be lumbering and bureaucratic; by contrast the UK has a real opportunity to unleash its economy and innovation now that it’s left the EU.

“This buccaneering spirit would make the UK a hugely attractive partner.”

The Biden administration has already been seen to give Britain an approving nod, after the new President chose to call Mr Johnson first out of all the European leaders following his inauguration.

Additionally, the EU has been sending confusing messages to Washington DC over collaboration.

The bloc chose to sign a contract with China which was seven years in the making in late December, just weeks before Mr Biden was sworn into office.

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The administration had urged Brussels to wait for Mr Biden to come into power, as he had planned to construct a united approach towards the US’ largest rival, China.

Back in December, Mr Biden said: “The best China strategy, I think, is one which gets every one of our — or at least what used to be our — allies on the same page.

“It’s going to be a major priority for me in the opening weeks of my presidency to try and get us back on the same page with our allies.”

Reports even claim that the EU had sent Mr Biden a note in search of a common strategy towards China weeks before Brussels signed the deal.

The decision to go ahead with the investment deal was dubbed a “one-finger salute” by POLITICO’s Europe correspondent Matt Karnitschnig.

Mr Rough told “The relationship between the US and the EU will now be truly tested.

“In the past, European officials could hide behind the argument that it was impossible to work with Trump, but that excuse is now gone.

“The Biden administration will welcome a transatlantic approach to China policy especially, which is its top priority for the transatlantic agenda.

It’s been fashionable to talk in the West about upholding the ‘liberal international order,’ but so long as the US reigned supreme, it was a cost-free commitment.

“Now that China is a peer competitor, there will be costs to defending the liberal order against a revisionist power.

“Will trade numbers or Western values win out in Brussels? How that shakes out will tell us a lot about the health of the transatlantic community.”

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