Former British ambassador hits out at EU’s ‘farce to disgrace’ – ‘Does one laugh or cry?’

Vaccine: Merkel and Macron 'jealous of UK' says Habib

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This week, Italy said it would block the export of about 250,000 vaccine doses from its Anagni plant, which was approved by Brussels. Rome used the EU’s vaccine export to ban to stop the pharmaceutical company from sending doses abroad.

It complained the Anglo-Swedish company had not done enough to deliver jabs to EU member states.

Now, Christopher Meyer, the former British ambassador to the US, has hit out at the bloc claiming they have lost its “moral compass”.

Mr Meyer tweeted: “Does one laugh or cry?

“In one corner the EU makes an unholy fuss about bits of soil, parcels and fruit ‘n’ veg going from GB to NI, while another its vaccine policy goes from farce to disgrace with a ban on AZ exports to Australia.

“EU has truly lost its moral compass.”

Australia’s health minister, Greg Hunt, said the European Commission should reconsider allowing Italy to block the delivery of the vital vaccines to the country.

Mr Hunt told reporters in Melbourne: “Australia has raised the issue with the European Commission through multiple channels, and in particular we have asked the European Commission to review this decision.”

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he could understand Italy’s reasoning for the blockade.

He said: “In Italy, people are dying at the rate of 300 a day.

“And so I can certainly understand the high level of anxiety that would exist in Italy and in many countries across Europe.”

Under the EU’s scheme, manufacturers in Europe must secure approvals from health authorities before shipping their jabs abroad.

While Italy has been blocking the export of AstraZeneca jabs abroad, it has struggled to administer the doses it has received from the firm.

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Australia already has received some 300,000 doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, which is expected to last until local production ramps up later this month.

It began its rollout of jabs two weeks ago, using Pfizer’s Covid jab to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers and senior citizens.

Australia has ordered 53.8 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine and a local pharmaceutical firm has secured the rights to manufacture 50 million doses in the country.

Former foreign minister Alexander Downer said: “Australia will get by without but as a matter of principle this is not a way to conduct international trade.”

This is the latest in a bitter feud between the EU and the UK over coronavirus vaccine supplies.

After a recent EU leaders summit, the European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said there is “room for improvement” over the AstraZeneca vaccine contract.

She said: “We want to see who is exporting where and I was very clear from the very start that is not directed against any kind of country but is focused on the question: does the company that is exporting a vaccine produced in Europe honour the contract in the European Union?

“If we look at the pattern the vast majority of exports is done by BioNTech/Pfizer of 95 percent approximately.

“The rest by Moderna. Both of them are honouring their contract so that is fine with us.

“We are in discussions with AstraZeneca where there is room for improvement where fulfilment of the contract is concerned, so here we have a very close eye on what is going on.”

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