Vaccine row: Maitlis grills Barley over AstraZeneca vote
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BBC Newsnight’s Emily Maitlis erupted as Vice President of the European Parliament made a string of extraordinary claims and accusations. Katarina Barley said a vote in the European Council on a vaccine blockade will go ahead on Thursday despite Britain and the EU reaching a win-win agreement on avoiding the situation. Ms Barley claimed “both sides are in it together” but Ms Maitlis countered the Vice President arguing if “we are in it together” why is “the threat still hanging over” the UK from the bloc.
Ms Maitlis said: “If you’re in it together though, why is the threat still hanging over, a threat that as you’ve heard might scare off pharmaceutical companies if they think you’re no longer a free trading body.”
Ms Barley responded insisting the EU are in “a very good relationship with all the pharmaceutical companies” before going on to brand AstraZeneca for causing problems with the EU.
She added: “It is only AstraZeneca that promised 120 million doses for the EU and after having sealed the contract reduced this to now 30 million.”
Then in a stab at the U.K. the Vice President went on to suggest the 30 million doses found ‘hidden’ in Italy were destined for Britain despite no evidence for that being the case.
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Ms Barley added AstraZeneca is “acting in a very bizarre way.”
But the BBC presenter dispelled this claim of the vaccines heading for Britain and raised the issue that the discovered vaccines may go unused given countries within the bloc still have temporary suspensions on the vaccine.
The European politician refused to accept failures within the bloc and said: “AstraZeneca is fulfilling its contracts in the U.K. but not in the European Union.
“It is just natural that the European Union has to react to this so its not between the EU and the U.K. its more a problem with this one company.”
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Prime Minister Boris Johnson warned Brussels to come to a deal on sharing jab doses instead of attempting to block exports of vaccinations to the UK.
Mr Johnson’s strict warning came as he said the EU’s aggressive behaviour risked “long-term damage” to the bloc by scaring business investment off.
British and EU officials were last night trying to cool the row and create a “win-win” agreement on sharing vaccines between the UK and the EU.
European leaders including German Chancellor Angela Merkel were nervous about European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen’s approach as EU diplomats sought out a compromise.
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The British Government and EU last night issued a joint statement confirming that talks are underway to bring an end to the chaos.
The statement said: “We are all facing the same pandemic and the third wave makes cooperation between the EU and UK even more important. We have been discussing what more we can do to ensure a reciprocally beneficial relationship between the UK and EU on Covid.
“Given our interdependencies, we are working on specific steps we can take, in the short, medium and long term, to create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all our citizens. In the end, openness and global cooperation of all countries will be key to finally overcoming this pandemic and ensuring better preparation for meeting future challenges. We will continue our discussions.”
But a Brussels summit of European leaders is expected to agree on Ms Von der Leyen’s proposals for emergency restrictions on Covid vaccines leaving the EU for nations like the UK who are charging ahead of the bloc with the rollout of jabs.
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