“Whether the response to the pandemic has been right or wrong, there is one thing the government has been right about and that is its vaccine procurement policy. The same cannot be said of our continental neighbors. ” You hear it, that little tip of national superiority in the voice of the commentator of the Telegraph? If you read the British press these days, this little tip will even sound very familiar to you: many newspapers are now singing the praises of the British government in the face of the embarrassment of “block” – the new fortress word for the European Union.
If the United Kingdom mourns more than 100,000 deaths – it is the country most affected in Europe in terms of number of deaths – the country has indeed already vaccinated on January 29 about 8 million of its residents, or 13% of its population – against 2.3% in Switzerland and 1.7% in France. All over the press, reports on France, Spain, Portugal, where entire regions have had to put their vaccination program on hold. “Why is the EU so slow?” pity BBC. And everywhere also national curves which rise proudly to arrive at the figure of 13 million people vaccinated in mid-February, as London has committed. “The best advertisement for Brexit”, laughs the Daily mail.
And who should we thank for this good result? Brexit, of course – always if we follow the reasoning of the Telegraph. “The UK was still in a period of transition when it was invited to join the EU’s common plan to obtain vaccines. The Commission would negotiate for everyone and get better prices, because of its size. Instead, Britain took single, swift action to ensure it got AstraZeneca vaccines, three months ahead of the EU, using an emergency clause. It is generally accepted that London paid more for its doses, but speed was crucial. Any other member country could have done the same but they preferred solidarity and unity. ” Boom.
It was the use of a European emergency clause that allowed London to move forward, not Brexit, but whatever, featherweight against liner: the AstraZeneca affair this week completes the polarization the British press, which defends tooth and nail this new national flagship (Swedish-British indeed), after the company announced to the European Commission that it could only provide a quarter of the doses promised for the first half of the year, 25 million instead of 100. A production failure badly felt on both sides of the Channel. “Everyone in turn! The selfish Europe wants our vaccines ”, headlined yesterday the Daily Express.
“Brussels sent inspectors to a Belgian production plant to check whether AstraZeneca was not lying about its production delays”, the tabloid would almost choke the Sun, which insists on “the war of vaccines” and evokes an “incredible escalation of tensions”. But in times of shortage, who has priority between the two customers? “We need transparency”, analyzes a more peaceful forum of the Financial Times which regrets that the contracts signed with the laboratories are not made public: we would then know if the text mentions the “best efforts” that AstraZeneca must make, as its director says, or if the commitment was firm vis-à-vis of the European Union and ‘crystal clear’, as the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, said this morning – the word is repeated everywhere.
“Covid has taught the UK the importance of self-sufficiency,” says The temperature, for years the Conservatives had no faith in the very idea of industrial strategy, but the pandemic changed everything. The old certainties of globalization have exploded and ministers are realizing that more factories must be repatriated. What we thought under Tony Blair, that the place of production does not matter, turns out to be a big mistake. “
These new headwinds pose a particular risk for Brexit Britain, a country trapped between two large protectionist economies, the United States and the European Union https://t.co/1kev949EW4
– James Forsyth (@JGForsyth) January 29, 2021
It suits the European Union …
“The block vaccination exercise was supposed to show how the financial muscles of Brussels and a newfound sense of solidarity would benefit Europeans,” resumes The independent. If AstraZeneca had been Chinese or American and was preparing their vaccines far from Britain and the EU, this whole thing wouldn’t have taken on that chauvinistic and passionate tinge, it would just be a trade dispute, but now of course everything is became infected with the virus of nationalism. In a way, it suits the European Union to be seen as standing up for its citizens and demanding their due, their legal and moral due. ” And a little further: “It welcomely distracts criticism of member states from possible EU misconduct. But it might not last. ”
The new rules that Brussels could impose on exports leaving European soil for a third destination are therefore annoying. “This could prevent the arrival of millions of doses of Pfizer vaccine that the government needs,” writes The sun. “London was ahead because of Brexit but that could change soon if a vaccine war begins”, fears The telegraph. The disadvantage of having left “the block”Would come back, the economic weight of the EU being much greater, and therefore the market more interesting for companies.
This little sentence again: “That the Germans question the effectiveness of AstraZeneca for people over 65 is not fair to English scientists. And Europe should make up its mind. First she hesitates, then she complains of not being able to have enough. “