South Asia and Beyond

‘Vaccine Politics’ Worsens Fraught UK-EU Ties

The Brexit breakup has been unpleasant enough and now “vaccine politics” threatens to further derail the already rocky relationship between Britain and Europe. The EU is demanding that AstraZeneca make up for the shortfall of coronavirus doses it is contractually obliged to provide after the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company has stated that there would be a 60 percent cut in supplies to the EU and that British consumers would come first. In response to the EU’s claims, the company states the contract specifies “best efforts” but does not indicate a timeframe.

To say the EU is livid would be putting it mildly. Europe’s health commissioner, Stella Kyriakides insisted in a recent new conference that the company had to deliver and all countries of the 27-member bloc were united in this stand. “The view that the company is not obliged to deliver because we signed a ‘best effort’ agreement is neither correct nor is it acceptable.”

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The situation is particularly fraught as the EU has been slow to move out its own vaccine. Though state leaders on both sides have so far refrained from commenting newspapers on both sides are spewing venom. Britain’s Daily Express newspaper has quoted MEP Peter Liese, a close ally of German Chancellor Angela Merkel, as calling for a “trade war” and suggesting all doses of the Pfizer vaccine to the UK be blocked if the company does not comply. This has led to many in the UK stating the bloc is playing “vaccine politics.”

The situation is ugly and can affect the trade deal negotiated with the EU by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in December. The storm is brewing and the war of words only seem to be getting louder.