Raab: EU Claims about UK COVID-19 Vaccine Export Ban “Completely False”
By Staff, Agencies
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has taken aim at European Council President Charles Michel over his claims that the UK imposed an "outright" ban on COVID-19 vaccination exports.
In a letter to Michel on Tuesday, Raab wrote that he "wanted to set the record straight" and that "the UK government has not blocked the export of a single COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine components".
"Any references to a UK export ban or any restrictions on vaccines are completely false. We are all facing this pandemic together", the foreign secretary underscored.
The Guardian cited an unnamed government source as saying that the claims about Britain's coronavirus vaccination export ban had been repeated "at various levels within the EU", prodding the UK to privately correct it on every occasion.
The source also hinted that Raab is now needed to "draw a line in the sand", adding, "a representative of the EU's delegation to the UK has been summoned to a meeting […] to discuss the issue [of Michel's claims of an export ban] further".
The remarks come after the European Council president asserted in his newsletter to 20,000 subscribers across the bloc that "the United Kingdom and the United States have imposed an outright ban on the export of vaccines or vaccine components produced on their territory".
Michel also rejected accusations of "vaccine nationalism" against the EU after the bloc faced criticism for its vaccine rollout, noting that he was "shocked" by such charges.
The diplomatic showdown followed Australian Trade Minister Dan Tehan telling the ABC news network that his country intends to build a coalition of like-minded countries to press the European Union into delivering shipments of coronavirus vaccines as planned.
He spoke after Italy confirmed blocking a shipment of 250,000 doses of the AstraZeneca/Oxford vaccine to Australia amid a continued spat with the Anglo-Swedish concern over delayed vaccine deliveries to the bloc.
According to Rome, it acted in coordination with Brussels and in accordance with new EU regulations allowing exports to be stopped if a vaccine manufacturer has failed to meet its obligations to the bloc. Rome insists that Australia is not on the list of vulnerable countries, while the EU is facing persistent vaccine delivery delays.
Earlier, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio reaffirmed that the EU will continue to prevent vaccines from leaving the bloc until manufacturers deliver on their contract obligations to Europe.
The statement came after UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson voiced concern during a meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen over the EU's plans to control exports of coronavirus vaccines, including to Northern Ireland, which is subject to the regulations of the European Single Market.
This was preceded by European Commission Executive Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis saying the exports of certain products, including coronavirus vaccines, would require authorization. The decision on limiting vaccine exports was made in the EU after AstraZeneca announced delays in vaccine supplies, citing production problems, reaffirming, however, its commitments on deliveries to the UK.
The UK kicked off its nationwide vaccination campaign on 8 December using vaccines developed by AstraZeneca and Pfizer, with over 20 million UK nationals already having received a shot.