UK vaccine success ‘got under skin’ of von der Leyen says expert
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Yesterday, the UK’s vaccine rollout continued to make progress as 440,327 new does were administered. The EU, meanwhile, is continuing to struggle with its rollout as the row with AstraZeneca continues. Last week, France accused the UK of “blackmail” over its handling of coronavirus vaccine exports. Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian said: “The United Kingdom has taken great pride in vaccinating well with the first dose except they have a problem with the second dose. “One can’t play with blackmail. You can’t be playing like this.”
However, despite ongoing tensions between the EU and the UK, a German journalist believes the bloc’s vaccine rollout may have been prevented had the UK never left the EU.
London editor of German newspaper Die Welt, Stefanie Bolzen, told the Chopper Politics podcast that a British Prime Minister would have stopped the European Commission from taking the lead.
She said: “I did a very interesting interview with Kate Bingham, the amazing woman leading the vaccine task force.
“She time and again said the success of the vaccine rollout had nothing to do with Brexit, and that this is a cross-national effort.
“You can ask the question: Had Britain still been in the EU, would the responsibility of the vaccine rollout have been given to the European Commission?
“The fact is that the Dutch and German governments had their contracts done with AstraZeneca and other companies, then it was given to the Commission and they did not do a good job.”
Ms Bolzen said that Germany’s rollout woes have been due to domestic issues rather than problems deriving from Brussels, but said the UK may have won member states more control.
She continued: “I’m pretty sure that if there had been a British Prime Minister at the table of the 28, they would have said, ‘No, we are not allowing this to be done by the European Commission.’
“And I agree, it was done so much better in your country than mine.”
Ms Bolzen also discussed her personal life during the pandemic, saying that this time last year she wanted to leave the UK for Europe.
The journalist spoke of her fear as the UK failed to respond quickly to the first surge in cases.
However, she now says she would rather stay in the UK as the vaccine rollout breeds optimism.
She said: “A year ago, I remember the days here in London and how scared I was knowing that the British health system, while brilliant in some things, would be overwhelmed.
“Now a year later, I have had the vaccine, it looks like very slowly here in Britain we are going back to life as it was before.
“While in Germany, they are back to lockdown, vaccine rollout is still very slow. People are so frustrated and angry. Now, I’d rather stay here in London.”
Ms Bolzen also commented on the vaccine crisis in Europe, and said that the Commission’s President Ursula von der Leyen’s criticisms of the UK are not being echoed in Germany.
She continued: “If you think what Ursula von der Leyen and what she is saying or how she is blaming Britain is in any way reflected in Germany, it’s not the case.
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“I haven’t seen any headline saying anything like, ‘We need to take vaccines away from the Brits’ or, ‘The Brits are playing a foul game’.
“It is a very complex situation, but the fact is since February there have been 10 million doses exported from the EU to the UK, there has been none exported from the UK to the EU.
“From the European perspective you can say, ‘Why can the UK expect the Europeans to send them BioNTech vaccines, and they are having a good rollout, good on them… but why in return do the Europeans get nothing back from the UK? Is that fair?'”
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