EU vaccine row exposes bloc’s ‘second-rate leaders’ in humiliating Brussels U-turn

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Brussels’ attempt to block vaccines from entering the UK sheds light on the fragile nature of EU bureaucracy, Robert Tombs, the renowned British historian, told Express.co.uk. It comes amid the EU’s humiliating U-turn after it threatened to cut vaccine supplies to the UK following its sluggish roll-out to member states. In what was the first real post-Brexit confrontation between the two powers, many, like Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) deputy leader, Nigel Dodd, noted that the EU’s mask had “slipped”.

This was especially true after the bloc invoked Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol, threatening to implement a hard border on the island of Ireland, an exceedingly delicate issue that dictated much of the Brexit negotiations.

Described by some as the “nuclear option”, Article 16 enables either side to unilaterally override parts of the deal, with the EU having made such a move just one month into its new relationship with Britain.

In a tense call with Prime Minister Boris Johnson over the weekend, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen gave way over the bloc’s aggression and forced Brussels into an about-turn.

Professor Tombs told Express.co.uk that the episode exposed how “irresponsible” the EU and its politicians are in stirring a crisis within a global pandemic.

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He said: “It without a doubt proves that the EU is trying to exert its power even in a health crisis.

“Another thing it seems to show is how second rate European politicians are, or EU politicians at least.

“You wouldn’t think that any responsible politician would start an unnecessary row over a subject that’s so emotive for many millions of people.

“This won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

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“They are deliberately whipping up resentment and fear, and that seems to me to be absolutely irresponsible and shows that they’re not up to the sorts of positions that they aspire to.

“They want the EU to be a great world power, well, it’s about time they started behaving like one.”

Many European leaders were frustrated after a mass vaccine roll-out across the 27 member states was delayed.

Markus Söder, the Bavarian Minister President and leader of the Christian Social Union and potential Chancellor hopeful, lashed out at Brussels for what he described as an “inadequate” coronavirus vaccine purchasing procedure.

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The issue has since been resolved, with Lizz Truss, the UK’s International Trade Secretary, even suggesting Britain could help the EU and other nations with coronavirus vaccines before the domestic vaccination programme has been completed.

The UK, along with Israel and the United Arab Emirates, is leading the way with its vaccine effort.

Britain’s current seven-day vaccine average stands at just over 353,000, with the first stage of the programme almost on track.

In order to hit the Government’s 15 million target by mid-February, the NHS needs to administer around 380,000 vaccines each day.

Already over four million people have been given their first dose of the vaccine.

On Saturday, The Times reported how early research has shown the UK’s mass vaccination already appears to be having an easing effect on the health crisis.

Britain has ordered some 367 million vaccine doses.

Meanwhile, the World Health Organisation (WHO) criticised the EU’s announcement of export controls on vaccines produced within the bloc.

It said such measures risked prolonging the pandemic.

WHO vice-head Mariangela Simao said Brussels’ actions appeared a “very worrying trend”.

The EU introduced further measures amid a row with vaccine manufacturers over early delivery shortcomings.

The so-called “transparency mechanism” gives EU countries the ability to reject authorisation for vaccine exports if the company making them has not honoured its contractual obligations to the bloc.

The WHO’s Director General, Tedros Adhanom, said such “vaccine nationalism” could lead to a “protracted recovery”.

‘This Sovereign Isle’ by Robert Tombs, published by Allen Lane, is out now.

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