Brexit: Lia Nici slams EU export process at borders
Michel Barnier, who heads the EU’s task force for UK relations, claimed the crisis demonstrated “the added value of cross-border cooperation and solidarity”. He argued EU member states successfully worked together to repatriate citizens and have created “a fund for post-pandemic reconstruction”.
The UK has administered over 27 coronavirus vaccines per 100 people, a figure far above any EU member state.
By comparison EU nations have on average only vaccinated around seven people per 100.
Mr Barnier discussed Brussels’ pandemic response during his forward for a new book about Brexit from Italian writer Federico Fabbrini.
He said: “The coronavirus pandemic that erupted in 2020, causing a dramatic number of deaths all over the world, has once again highlighted the added value of cross-border cooperation and solidarity.
Michel Barnier defended the EU’s coronavirus response
Mr Barnier with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen
“EU member states have not only been able to work together to repatriate citizens who were in the rest of the world, and ensure the supply of goods across borders, but have also finally decided to create a fund for post-pandemic reconstruction, which is an unprecedented initiative to revive the EU economy for the next generation.
“Overcoming the tragic social and economic losses caused by a crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic requires solidarity and empathy across borders.
“But this is true both between EU member states and between the EU and the UK.”
However Mr Barnier made no reference to the EU’s vaccine programme which has fallen well behind not just the UK but other developed nations like Israel and the United States.
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Michel Barnier with UK Brexit negotiator David Frost
European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen has said the bloc is “not where we want to be” on vaccines.
Addressing a number of European newspapers, she admitted: “We were late to authorise.
“We were too optimistic when it came to massive production and perhaps too confident that what we ordered would actually be delivered on time.”
The European Commission didn’t order the Oxford-AstraZeneca jab, the workhorse of Britain’s vaccination programme, until three months after the UK.
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The UK has vaccinated over one person per 27
The EU is lagging far behind the UK’s vaccine programme
It suffered a further hit when production problems at European plants meant AstraZeneca cut the number of vaccines it will deliver to the EU during the beginning of this year.
In response the EU threatened to block exports to the UK, imposing a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, but backed down following outrage in Dublin and London.
The UK’s swift vaccination programme allowed Boris Johnson to layout a staged plan for ending lockdown earlier this week, which could see all restrictions on social gatherings removed by June 21.
Following the Prime Minister’s announcement Bild, Germany’s biggest newspaper, published a frontpage article titled “Dear Brits, we envy you!”
There is outrage across the EU over the bloc’s slow vaccine rollout
It said: “The English have announced their return to normality on June 21 and here there is no hope.”
Mr Barnier also used his forward to argue Brexit will make the UK worse off, though he claimed Britain and the EU should continue working closely together.
He commented: “Whatever the future partnership between the UK and the EU is, it will never be able to match the benefits of EU membership.
“The UK’s exit from the internal market and the EU customs union, and its decision to end the free movement of people, will inevitably cause disruption, creating additional economic costs and barriers that do not exist today.
“The English have announced their return to normality on June 21 and here there is no hope”
“It is important that citizens and businesses in the European Union and the UK are ready for these changes.
“Because even though the UK is no longer a member state of the EU, it remains our neighbour, ally and friend.
“Despite Brexit, we must therefore honour the ties that unite our countries and our citizens, and work to create a new form of partnership with the UK.”
Additional reporting Maria Ortega.