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Boris Johnson hits back at EU accusation that UK blocked COVID vaccine exports

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2-min read

Watch: Boris Johnson hits back at EU accusation that UK blocked COVID vaccine exports

Boris Johnson has hit out at the EU for saying the UK has blocked coronavirus vaccine exports.

The claim by European Council president Charles Michel sparked anger within the UK government, with senior EU diplomat Nicole Mannion summoned to the Foreign Office over the row on Wednesday.

Speaking at Prime Minister's Questions (PMQs) shortly afterwards, Johnson said the UK should be "proud" of the success of its vaccine rollout so far, as well as the £548m it has invested in the global Covax initiative for fairer distribution of the jab.

“I therefore wish," Johnson said, "to correct the suggestion from the European Council president that the UK has blocked vaccine exports.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks during Prime Minister's Questions in the House of Commons, London.
'Correcting' the EU: Boris Johnson at PMQs on Wednesday. (PA)

"Let me be clear, we have not blocked the export of a single COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine components.

"This pandemic has put us all on the same side in the battle for global health – we oppose vaccine nationalism in all its forms.”

European Council President Charles Michel takes part in a video-conferenced meeting with German Chancellor at the European Council in Brussels, on March 5, 2021. (Photo by JOHN THYS / various sources / AFP) (Photo by JOHN THYS/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
European Council president Charles Michel (John Thys/pool/AFP via Getty Images)

Michel, in a newsletter on Tuesday, had said he was “shocked” when he heard allegations of vaccine nationalism levelled at the EU, going on to say: “The UK and the US have imposed an outright ban on the export of vaccines or vaccine components produced on their territory.

“But the EU, the region with the largest vaccine production capacity in the world, has simply put in place a system for controlling the export of doses produced in the EU.”

The UK government had issued a firm denial of the EU's claim about exports, with foreign secretary Dominic Raab labelling it "completely false".

Michel's claim added to tensions which already existed over the COVID vaccine between the UK and EU.

Read more:

The picture from a year ago today that tells the story of the UK’s disastrous COVID response

Next COVID surge will cause significant number of deaths this year, warns Chris Whitty

In January, the EU briefly attempted to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol of the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement to impose controls on vaccines.

It swiftly backtracked after coming in for widespread criticism over the move – which came as it faced significant pressure over delays to the rollout of its vaccination programme.

Watch: How England is leaving lockdown