BRUSSELS is banking on Britain not hitting back if it opts to impose an export ban on vaccines to the UK, a former Treasury adviser has said.
However, Mujtaba Rahman, now managing director, Europe at the Eurasia Group political consultancy, warned the EU would be making a “miscalculation” which risked triggering a full-blown trade war – while one Twitter user suggested such a move would unite Brexiteers and Remainers in fury at the bloc. Mr Rahman was speaking at a time when the EU was stepping up plans to impose an export ban on AstraZeneca jabs to Britain and other areas with much higher vaccination rates. Currently, more than 50 percent of Britains have received at least one jab, compared with just ten percent for the continent. Mr Rahman tweeted: “Dominant view in Bxl (Brussels) is that Govt won’t retaliate if EU implements an export ban. If we end up in a tit-for-tat trade war, it will be because of this EU miscalculation.”
Mujbaba Rahman’s tweet
His post attracted a mixed response from fellow social media users.
Jacob Kirkegaard, a senior fellow at Germany’s Peterson Institute, replied:” If AZ “as a firm” decides to deliver Halix supply to EU, while the EU refrains from a general export ban (i.e. not touching Pfizer), what precisely will UK Gov do?”
However, Peter Taylor-Smith said: “It would be naive of them to think that the UK government would not feel compelled to respond. A quick glance at history shows that the British public does not react well to perceived hectoring or bullying behaviour.”
Paul Brennan added: “It’s absolutely a miscalculation. Curious that the EU should be inviting Brexiters to confirm their contempt & Remainers to question their allegiance”.
Peter Taylor-Smith said it would unwise to underestimate the UK reaction
AstraZeneca’s jab was developed in partnership with Oxford University
“It won’t win any friends in Member-States either if its actions prompt a retaliatory ban from the UK. Germ warfare is not cool.”
The European Commission will tomorrow extend EU powers to potentially block COVID-19 vaccine exports to the UK, and to cover instances of companies backloading contracted supplies, EU officials said today.
The regulation is aimed at making vaccine trade reciprocal and proportional so that other vaccine-making countries sell to Europe and the EU does not export much more than it imports, one EU official said.
World coronavirus figures
With no numerical targets, the change is unlikely to trigger mass export bans of EU-made vaccines, an official with insight into the announcement said.
They explained: “I just really, really don’t see that happening because we have our international obligations and we want to keep supply chains going and the global system moving and flowing.”
The regulation will be the basis for the EU’s 27 governments to decide whether to block vaccine exports or not.
UK coronavirus map
Speaking today, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson said Britain did not believe in imposing vaccine blockades.
He told a Downing Street press conference: “We’ll continue to work with European partners to deliver the vaccine rollout.
“All I can say is we in this country don’t believe in blockades of any kind of vaccines or vaccine materials.
“It’s not something that this country would dream of engaging in and I’m encouraged in some of the things I’ve heard from the continent in the same sense”.