EU ‘jealous’ of UK’s vaccine rollout plan says Etheridge
The former Prime Minister, who has been a vocal supporter of the UK remaining in the bloc, said Brussels’ action in triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to control the movement of coronavirus jabs had been “unacceptable”. The EU backtracked on the move, imposed unilaterally as it faces shortfalls on vaccine supplies, after facing universal criticism from London, Dublin and Belfast.
Asked if the move was irresponsible, Mr Blair told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “Yes, it was a very foolish thing to do and fortunately they withdrew it very quickly.
“I was somebody who negotiated the Good Friday Agreement, it’s brought peace to the island of Ireland and it is absolutely vital that we protect it and that’s why what the European Commission did was unacceptable but, as you say, fortunately they withdrew it very quickly.”
He was also asked if the UK should consider giving away some of the vaccines that we have to other countries.
Mr Blair said: “That’s only going to happen if we’ve got a surplus of vaccine.
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“We, like most developed countries, have ordered more vaccine than we will probably use but this is a decision that has got to be taken once we see our own programme rolling out.
“I’m sure there will be, by the way, for all of the developed world – because America for example has got massively more vaccine ordered than it is ever going to use – there will come a point I’m sure when the developed world will want to make sure that if they have surplus to their own requirements, they’ll want to share this with the developing world.”
When asked if Brexit helped, he disagreed.
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Mr Blair also said there is a “very strong case” for teachers to be vaccinated before schools are reopened to all students in England, which the Government has earmarked for March 8.
The move would require a delay for some older people to receive the jabs, but it is not suggested it starts before the top four priority groups are vaccinated, which is aimed for mid-February.
He said: “Well, I am suggesting I would push back.
“If it’s 500,000 people it is two days of vaccination.
“I think that is a reasonable thing to do in these circumstances if it helps allow you to get the schools back sooner.”
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen is expected to meet chief executives of vaccine producers later.
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Irish premier Micheal Martin held emergency talks with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen this weekend.
A compromise was struck to prevent a possible hard border with the Republic of Ireland after a flurry of diplomacy followed the EU’s surprise move to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The U-turn came after Brussels installed export controls and demanded British-manufactured AstraZeneca jabs, as the bloc is embroiled in a row over shortages from pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca.
Appearing on Sophie Ridge this morning, International trade secretary Liz Truss also said that vaccine nationalism must be resisted.
She said: “What we know about the vaccination programme is this is a global problem and we need a global solution.
“We’re only going to be able to deal with this disease if we get everybody vaccinated across the world.
“It’s vital we work together, it’s vital we keep borders open and we resist vaccine nationalism, and we resist protectionism.
“I’ve been working with my fellow trade ministers to make that happen. We’re pleased that the EU admitted that the Article 16 … for the border in Ireland was a mistake and they are now not proceeding with that.
“But, fundamentally, the way we’re going to get through this crisis is working together and I’m very pleased that the UK is leading the way.”
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