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EU vaccine strategy 'a recipe for disaster' says MEP
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Brussels is allegedly prepared to knock Brexit Britain out of its banking market, which could end up causing costs on either side of the English Channel to skyrocket. Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey believes the EU has signalled that it is considering shutting out the City, subsequently fragmenting markets and actually increasing the cost of business in the EU. This latest EU-UK spat follows off the back of Brussels’ humiliating incident with the COVID-19 vaccines last month.
When UK-based developer AstraZeneca announced it would not be able to meet the requested vaccine quotas laid out in its EU contract, the bloc demanded that the UK share its own supplies.
However, Downing Street refused — especially as the EU’s procurement scheme had signed its contract with AstraZeneca three months after Britain.
The bloc then took the extreme measure of invoking the emergency procedure of the Brexit deal, preventing unimpeded vaccines from crossing from the Republic of Ireland into Northern Ireland, triggering international fury.
Brussels revoked the move just hours later, but the EU’s behaviour had already revealed how it was panicking at the vaccine rollout.
The EU’s slow response is also set to cost it billions of euros, as continued lockdowns drain its economy according to Bloomberg’s calculations.
The bloc is currently operating at 95 percent of its pre-pandemic capacity meaning it is losing approximately €12billion (£10.5billion) per week.
As it continues to trail behind the UK and the US in its vaccinations, making up lost ground will be a huge challenge.
Bloomberg claimed: “A delay of one to two months would amount to €50 to €100billion [£43.8billion to £87.7billion] blow.”
Director of Bruegel think tank, Guntram Wolff, explained: “Every week that the lockdown has to be extended because the population isn’t vaccinated and vulnerable means substantial economic costs.
“Those costs are a lot higher than the costs of the vaccinations themselves.”
The UK has provided 20 doses per 100 people and the US has offered 14 doses for 100 people — the EU has only offered four doses per 100.
Chief European economist at Bloomberg, Jamie Rush, explained: “The UK’s early progress means we expect a vigorous economic recovery to take root sooner than in mainland Europe.
“The higher transmissibility of new COVID-19 strain is prompting tougher containment measures in much of Europe, raising the cost of vaccine delays.”
The EU is still predicting that it will have 70 percent of the adult population vaccinated by summer, a move that would enable its economy to kick back into action.
Yet, there is widespread concern that the bloc’s slow procurement process will continue to impinge the vaccine rollout.
The CEO of US developer Moderna, Stephane Bancel, warned the EU that by reacting so slowly to vaccine procurement, deliveries would slow, leaving other countries to skip ahead in the queue.
He told French outlet AFP in November: “It is clear that with a delay this is not going to limit the total amount but it is going to slow down delivery.”
The US reserved 100 million doses in August while negotiations with Canada were completed after just two weeks — but the EU did not sign a contract with Moderna until months after talks began.
Mr Bancel’s comments came long before the AstraZeneca row.
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Moderna has also recently announced that it will not be able to provide its promised vaccine supplies to the EU, with France receiving 150,000 fewer doses and Italy and Switzerland seeing a 20 percent drop in the requested amount.
This delay was predicted by the developer’s CEO, Mr Bancel, when he noted back in November: “I will not be able to send products to countries that have not placed orders.”
He added: “The longer they wait, the longer it will take.”
Pfizer also experienced a dip in production from the middle of January, due to slow production at a Belgian plant.
Additionally, associate professor Dr Sharifah Sekalala from Warwick University’s Law School told the BBC that the EU’s use of the emergency Article 16 to impact the Irish border could have knock-on effects which could slow down the rollout, too.
She explained: “In 2020, the European Commission issued export bans for a number of goods like PPE, and the Coronavirus Act, had export bans on certain essential medicines.
“So they are within their rights to have export bans on certain things that are essential for fighting the crisis.”
She continued: “There are studies that show that when we did this for PPE, when countries started to do this for PPE, it made supply problems worse instead of better because everyone was hoarding what they had instead of facilitating free trade.
EU is ‘a massive bureaucracy’ says Rick Stein
“That was problematic at the height of the crisis.”
By extension, exercising a similarly nationalistic approach towards the vaccines, the EU could actually cause more delays.
The World Health Organisation warned in March last year that the ability of countries to respond to the health crisis was restricted by “the severe and increasing disruption to the global supply of personal protective equipment — caused by rising demand, hoarding and misuse”.
As Peter Rough told Express.co.uk: “The vaccine imbroglio showed how the EU can be lumbering and bureaucratic; by contrast, the UK has a real opportunity to unleash its economy and innovation now that it’s left the EU.”
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