LONDON — Attempts to block vaccine exports from the EU would be “counterproductive” and the “grown-up thing” would be to work with the U.K. to maximize production, U.K. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said on Sunday.
The senior U.K. government minister warned European Union leaders “the world is watching” as they meet on Thursday to discuss whether drugmaker AstraZeneca should face a ban on exports of coronavirus vaccine doses it produces in the EU if it does not meet its delivery obligations.
EU Commissioner Mairead McGuinness told the BBC “everything is on the table” when asked on Sunday if the bloc was seriously considering trying to stop vaccines being exported to Britain. EU citizens are “growing angry and upset at the fact that the vaccine rollout has not happened as rapidly as we had anticipated,” she said ahead of the European Council meeting.
Wallace told Sky News that any attempt to block vaccine exports by the EU would be “counterproductive” and would undermine their own citizens’ chances of having the vaccine.
“If contracts get broken and undertakings, that is a very damaging thing to happen for a trading bloc that prides itself on the rule of law, prides itself on following contracts … and I think the Commission knows deep down that the world is watching what happens. And also it is counterproductive because the one thing we know about vaccine production and manufacture is that it is collaborative,” he said.
He later told the BBC: “The grown-up thing would be for the European Commission and some of the European leaders to not indulge in rhetoric.”
Pfizer, which needs crucial vaccine ingredients from Yorkshire in England, has reportedly warned the EU that it could face retaliation if it blocks vaccines bound for the U.K. Wallace said: “Making a vaccine is like baking a cake, and we all have different ingredients. And the European Commission will know that, you pointed out the point about Pfizer, they will know that simply you wouldn’t want to cut off your nose to spite your face.”
But McGuiness hit back at accusations of vaccine nationalism, telling the BBC the EU had already exported doses to 31 countries. She also pointed out the U.K. had banned the export of 100 pharmaceutical products — a move she argued could itself be described as “vaccine nationalism.”
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