LONDON- British Foreign Minister Dominic Raab accused the European Commission of brinkmanship over its threat to ban exports of COVID 19 vaccines and called on the Commission head Ursula von der Leyen to explain her remarks.
The European Union on Wednesday threatened to ban exports of COVID-19 vaccines to Britain to protect scarce doses for its own citizens, with von der Leyen expressing frustration over lack of deliveries from AstraZeneca plants in Britain.
I think it takes some explaining because the world is watching. It also cuts across the direct assurances that we had from the Commission, Raab told Reuters. We expect to be respecting these assurances and legal, contracted supply.
He said that von der Leyen's comments contradicted assurances he had received from the Commission Vice President Valdis Dombrovskis and EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell.
We were reliably informed that they were not aware of plans to restrict legal contracted supply to the UK, Raab said.
But a Commission official said Dombrovskis had made clear in his phone call with Raab that the aim of the EU export authorization system was to ensure that deliveries to EU countries were not disproportionately affected by exports.
Dombrovskis invited the British government to provide figures on its exports of vaccines to the EU, which we look forward to receiving, said a official from the Commission, who noted that the EU had exported 10 million vaccine doses to Britain but received none.
Britain has the fifth highest death rate from the coronavirus pandemic but one of the quickest vaccine rollouts among large countries, with over 25 million people given a first dose of a COVID 19 vaccine.
The government says it is on track to have given a first COVID 19 shot to half of the adults within the next few days, and not far from the milestone than its European counterparts.
Raab said that the European Union had agreed with Britain previously that it was wrong to restrict or interfere with lawfully contracted supplies during a pandemic.
It is critically important to keep supply chains open, to keep trade and vital supplies of medical equipment and vaccines. We have all argued for this.