Brexit: Expert warns UK has to be ‘innovative’
Swede Charlie Weimers said the “vaccine fiasco” orchestrated by Brussels has prompted a rise in Euroscepticism in his native country. But he added that citizens in other member states, such as the Netherlands and Denmark, are also considering the value of the bloc as Britain’s vaccine scheme races ahead of the EU. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has taken personal charge of the roll-out of Covid jabs across the bloc.
European capitals placed “responsibility for the life and death of their citizens” in the hands of Brussels, Mr Weimers said.
And this decision has backfired with the EU struggling to overcome a shortage of vaccine supplies after a bitter row with UK-based drugs giant AstraZeneca.
The feud left the bloc short of some 40 million doses short as it races against the clock to vaccinate 70 percent of adults by the end of September.
Mr Weimers, a Swedish MEP, told Express.co.uk: “Ursula von der Leyen famously said this was Europe’s moment. And I have to agree this is Europe’s moment of embarrassment.
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“Mrs von der Leyen has been hiding for most of this week and it seems no one in the Commission have got a grip on the situation. Departments are passing the buck, blaming each other, while she is focusing on damage control.
“What this crisis shows is that the EU never lets a good crisis go to waste – this is true for the pandemic and shows the EU is not up for the job.”
The Swedish Democrat politician said European voters are already “comparing and contrasting” the EU’s bungled scheme with that of Brexit Britain.
Britain has raced ahead of the EU, giving almost 11 million jabs so far, at a rate of 15.5 doses per 100 people.
The EU, which has delivered 14.3 million jabs, is trundling along at a rate of 3.16 per 100 people.
Mr Weimers urged national governments to “look in the mirror” for trusting the Commission with securing and distributing life-saving Covid jabs.
He said: “Governments that have advocated handing over responsibility for the life and death of their citizens to the EU need to take a very hard look in the mirror.”
He added: “One needs to ask what the benefits of the joint procurement of vaccines are apart from EU symbolism.”
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Meanwhile, Mrs von der Leyen has made a compelling case for Brexit when she conceded its independence had allowed the UK to operate more nimbly to secure supplies.
In recognition of the EU’s sluggish vaccine scheme, the top eurocrat compared the bloc’s procurement process to an “oil tanker”.
“Alone, a country can be a speedboat, while the EU is more like a ship,” Mrs von der Leyen told a group of European newspapers.
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“Before concluding a contract with a pharmaceutical company, the 27 member states had five full days to say whether they agreed or not.
“This naturally delays the process. Indeed, we must constantly put pressure on ourselves so that each step of the decision-making process is as fast and efficient as possible.”
Amid growing criticism of her handling of the bloc’s vaccine crisis, Mrs von der Leyen defended the deliberately slow roll-out of jabs.
But the European Commission President conceded she had “underestimated” the challenges faced by the EU in securing sufficient supplies for its mass vaccination programme.
She said: “We have certainly underestimated the difficulties we are experiencing.
“We should have warned, explaining that at first the process would not be smooth, that there would be ups and downs.”
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