The European Union and the United Kingdom have said they are working together on steps to improve their relationship, following recent tensions over COVID-19 vaccine supplies.
Creating a win-win situation and extending vaccine supply
In a joint statement by the European Commission and Her Majesty’s Government on cooperation in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic they said:
“We are all facing the same pandemic and the third wave makes co-operation 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-19.”
In the joint statement, they further said the EU and UK are working on specific short, medium and long-term steps “to create a win-win situation and expand vaccine supply for all our citizens”.
Export ban system discussions
Nevertheless, EU leaders will be holding export ban system discussions on Thursday to ensure vaccines stay in the bloc. The EC has set out proposals that would grant EU governments more powers to block vaccine exports. The proposal is seen as being focused predominantly on the UK, which has imported millions of doses manufactured in the EU but has not exported any. The EU states are attempting to accelerate their vaccination campaigns following a slow start.
The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen stated last week that the EU had exported more than 10 million doses to the UK, but the UK had exported none in return so far. Stricter export controls are most likely to affect countries with much higher vaccination rates than the EU, such as the UK and US.
The British-Swedish multinational pharmaceutical and biotechnology company AstraZeneca has been at the centre of the row between the EU and the UK over COVID-19 vaccine supplies. In a BBC interview, the EU’s Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton has emphasized that the bloc’s issues were with AstraZeneca and not the UK government.