Coronavirus vaccines from Pfizer and AstraZeneca are expected to be supplied to the UK as planned, despite the EU’s export controls and demands for British-manufactured jabs, after a discussion with Brussels’ chief, Michael Gove has said.
The Cabinet Office minister said the EU recognises it “made a mistake” in its short-lived but widely-condemned move to override part of the Brexit agreement on Northern Ireland, to prevent shipments of jabs entering the UK, in a move that risked imposing a hard border with the republic.
Mr Gove said the Government expects the vaccines to be supplied successfully, after Boris Johnson held an emergency discussion with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen on Friday night after the EU’s surprise move to trigger Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
The bloc backtracked after condemnation from London, Dublin and Belfast, with leaders all blindsided by the earlier decision as the EU is embroiled in a row with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca over shortfalls in the delivery of jabs.
Despite criticism from the World Health Organisation, the EU is pushing ahead with imposing controls on vaccines manufactured within member states, which it is feared could hinder the UK’s access to further supplies, particularly to the Belgian-made Pfizer jab.
Brussels has also demanded doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine manufactured in British plants, to solve its supply shortage issues, as member states have been forced to pause or delay their rollouts.
But on Saturday, Mr Gove told reporters: “The Prime Minister was very clear, we’ve entered into contractual arrangements with AstraZeneca and Pfizer and we expect those arrangements to be honoured.
“And President von der Leyen was clear that she understood exactly the UK Government’s position, so we expect that those contracts will be honoured, we expect that vaccines will continue to be supplied.”
Mr Gove added: “We’re confident that we can proceed with our vaccine programmes exactly as planned.”