Vaccine: Iain Dale says EU ‘blame the Brits’
Brussels published its 41-page contract with AstraZeneca on Friday with the insistence it proved vaccines should be sent to the bloc’s 27 nations from UK factories to help with supply issues. Many paragraphs of the contract were redacted with thick black lines blocking text underneath, despite the bloc welcoming the “transparency” of the document. However, the blanked out sections of the contract can still be viewed in the bookmarks bar on the left of the online document.
This is despite a non-redacted section of the contract clearly warning against the confidential information being disclosed.
It said: “The Receiving Party shall treat all confidential information as secret and confidential and shall not use, copy or disclose to any third party any confidential information of the Disclosing Party.”
People took to Twitter to mock the EU for appearing to “break the law”.
One person said: “Wow it’s really true. The European Commission’s “redacted” copy of the AstraZeneca-EU vaccine contract is not redacted at all because you can just see everything in the bookmarks bar on the left.
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“Does this qualify as the EU breaking its contract in publishing sections of the contract that are by mutual agreement not meant to be made public?”
Another person added: “Oh boy, doesn’t look good for the institution.”
At the time the contract was signed, Britain had left the EU but was still forced to follow most of the EU’s rules due to the transition period which ended on December 31.
The contract also said that AstraZeneca may manufacture at facilities elsewhere to accelerate supply of the vaccine in Europe.
This is provided that it gives “prior notification”.
But the contract does not confirm whether AstraZeneca should send vaccines produced in Britain to the EU.
The UK is mentioned in a section on manufacturing sites, which said: “AstraZeneca shall use its Best Reasonable Efforts to manufacture the vaccine at manufacturing sites located within the EU (which for the purpose of this Section 5.4 only shall include the United Kingdom)”.
A statement on the European Commission website said: “The Commission welcomes the company’s commitment towards more transparency in its participation in the rollout of the EU Vaccines Strategy.
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“Transparency and accountability are important to help build the trust of European citizens and to make sure that they can rely on the effectiveness and safety of the vaccines purchased at the EU level.”
AstraZeneca and the EU signed a deal for up to 400 million doses of the vaccine.
But the firm suddenly announced cuts of up to 60 percent in supplies to the bloc last week.
It said production problems at a Belgian factory were to blame, but this triggered a furious response from the bloc.
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EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen called for an explanation from AstraZeneca over the delay, as she insisted the supply orders are “binding” and “the contract is crystal clear”.
She said: “AstraZeneca has also explicitly assured us in this contract that no other obligations would prevent the contract from being fulfilled.”
Express.co.uk has approached the European Commission for comment on the published contract.
Earlier this week, EU chief Charles Michel said that if it were “deemed politically opportune”, EU action could include using the bloc’s Article 122, which would mean EU states would legally take “measures appropriate to the economic situation” in case of severe supply difficulties.
He said in a leaked letter to the leaders of Austria, the Czech Republic, Denmark and Greece: “This would give the EU and member states the legal means, by adopting appropriate urgent measures, to ensure effective vaccine production and supply for our population.
“I made this suggestion to the (European) Commission President von der Leyen so that we can explore this avenue imminently.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s spokesman responded that the Government would not discuss contractual matters.
But he said the Government expected contracts to be “facilitated” and he was confident of its supply.
He said: “AstraZeneca has clearly stated they will be able to provide two million vaccine doses a week and we’ve said we will get that to people as quickly as possible.”
Mr Johnson also warned European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen of his “grave concerns” over Brussels’ move to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to disrupt the flow of jabs from the bloc into the region on Friday.
Brussels backed down on its threat to override part of the Brexit deal on Northern Ireland after facing huge backlash.
Ms von der Leyen said she had spoken to Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin to “agree on a satisfactory way to introduce an export authorisation mechanism” for vaccines.
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