Susanna Siddell

Brexit and the EU this week: From Doses to Diplomatic Spats - 29th January 2021

Sacré Flu! EU concerns over AstraZeneca supply shortages

Amid concern that UK vaccine supplies may be interrupted by the EU, Michael Gove has reassured that there “will be no interruption” to the rolling out of doses.
He has said: “It is the case that the supplies that have been planned, paid for and scheduled should continue, absolutely.”

Image: Policy Exchange from Wikimedia Commons

This has come after rows between AstraZeneca and the EU about supply shortages, when the pharmaceutical company said it could not supply the previously agreed upon number of vaccines between January and March, as production issues have meant a loss of 50 million doses.

The European health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides, has called for AstraZeneca to compensate for the loss by using supplies from UK plants instead, although the UK had signed contracts with the pharmaceutical company before the EU, who is yet to approve the vaccine. She said: “We reject the logic of ‘first come, first served’ – that may work at the neighbourhood butchers but not in contracts.”

However, Mr Gove has said: “We must make sure that we continue with the effective acceleration of our vaccination programme. That relies on the supply schedule that has been agreed to be honoured. That’s the first and most important thing. But secondarily I’m sure we all want to do everything possible to make sure that as many people in countries which are our friends and neighbours are vaccinated and I think we best achieve that through dialogue and co-operation and friendship.”

Diplomatic debacle regarding EU ambassador continues…

After last week’s row arising from an EU representative’s diplomatic status in London, the EU has delayed the meeting with British ambassador Lindsay Croisdale-Appleby. This has come as a result from the meeting between the EU’s foreign ministers on Monday.

The EU’s High Representative for Foreign Affairs, Josep Borrell, has said: “We will not accept that the UK will be the only country in the world that does not accept the delegation of the EU as the equivalent of a diplomatic mission.”

Image: Christian Lue from Unsplash

Nevertheless, foreign secretary Dominic Raab has continued to stand firm in his decision so far, saying that the EU’s ambassador must be treated as a representative from an international organisation, and not from a sovereign nation.

Many are unimpressed with the UK’s decision, with peers in the House of Lords labelling the action as “peevish and vindictive” and “gratuitously offensive”. To put it simply, Liberal Democrat Baroness Ludford labelled the government’s behaviour as “petty”.

The postponement of this meeting is the first action from Brussels that has rebuffed the UK government since the start of the diplomatic conflict.
Yet, it is certainly within the EU’s power to reject meetings with the British ambassador until a compromise has been found. An EU official said: “We are not going to let this go.”

Despite this stand-off, Mr Borrell has stated that he was “confident we can clear this issue with our friends in London in a satisfactory manner”.