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EU unity in jeopardy: Boris to offer vaccines to Ireland in ‘poke in the eye’ to Brussels

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Amid the row over the AstraZeneca vaccine, in a move which may highlight the EU’s flawed vaccination programme, Mr Johnson will offer 3.7 million vaccine doses to Ireland as early as this weekend. Although the EU has accused the UK of vaccine nationalism, Dominic Raab, the foreign secretary, Michael Gove, chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, and Brandon Lewis, the Northern Ireland secretary have outlined a plan to send doses to Ireland. Not only would the act aid Ireland’s own vaccination programme but it will also end fears that coronavirus cases may spread to Northern Ireland.

One Cabinet source told The Times: “Everyone can see the logic of it.

“It’s good politics, while at the same time solving a genuine public health concern in Northern Ireland.

“It is a balancing act, making sure that we have enough vaccines to give the UK’s adult population the second dose.

“Easter will be when we might be able to start offering vaccines to Ireland.”

Although the UK has surged ahead with its vaccination programme, Mr Johnson raised concerns of a fresh wave of cases due to the spike in infection rates across the continent.

Due to the failed vaccine rollout, parts of Germany are under strict conditions, Paris and other areas in France are now in lockdown while Italy will impose a national shutdown over Easter.

While the UK has now issued over 30 million first doses of a vaccine, case levels may rise if the third wave in Europe spreads to the UK or as Mr Johnson said, “washed up on our shores”.

Indeed, Sir Jeremy Farrar from the Government’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies must begin to share its surplus doses.

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Sir Jeremy said: “The world won’t be safe while any single country is still fighting the virus.

“If left to spread, it risks mutating to an extent where our vaccines and treatments no longer work.

“This goes beyond ethics it’s a scientific and economic imperative.”

Although tensions remain strained with Emmanuel Macron, there is concern extremist parties may capitalise on the crisis in France to gain a foothold ahead of next year’s election.

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One source added: “The fear is that Macron has made such a mess of things that it might mean we end up with Marine Le Pen getting elected.

“No one wants that.”

Talks over a vaccine agreement between the UK and EU will resume today, following the threats to bloc exports to Britain last week.

EU Commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen had warned vaccine supplies may be restricted from going to the UK ahead of a European Summit as member states were not getting their fair share of supplies.

Led by former ambassador to the EU, Sir Tim Barrow, it is thought the two sides may come to a compromise over the dispute during negotiations today.

Although the EU argued member states had not received sufficient doses, the UK’s negotiating team claimed in terms of proportionality, Britain had invested more money than individual European states in vaccine development.

Despite the easing of tensions, the EU still pushed ahead with a raft of new vaccine restrictions last week.

When exporting doses, the EU will now consider the number of vaccine sent to Europe from any member states.

There will also be considerations made on the vaccine rate in any states receiving doses in comparison to the bloc’s.

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