On Wednesday, a senior EU diplomat in London was called to a meeting at the British foreign ministry, as the two sides traded barbs over Covid-19 vaccines, the latest in a series of arguments that bode ill for post-Brexit cooperation.
The fresh diplomatic spat comes after European Council President Charles Michel, in rejecting broad charges of “vaccine nationalism” levelled at the EU over its export controls, said that Britain had banned exports of Covid-19 vaccine doses. Britain said that was “completely false”
According to the EU diplomat, “these skirmishes are the new normal. With more economic divergence and more competition ahead, pressure on our Brexit agreements will only grow.”
Last year the Britain and the 27-nation EU sealed a new partnership after twisting divorce and trade negotiations following the 2016 Brexit referendum. In force since January 1st, it has failed so far to ease tentions.According to second senior EU diplomat, “this was another provocation. It’s not the first, and nobody expects it to be the last. The EU will keep calm and react firmly,” adding that tensions over Brexit arrangements for the Border could influence negotiations on regulatory cooperation in financial services, which the City of London wants.
The EU sent charge d’affaires Nicole Mannion to a morning meeting with British foreign office permanent under-secretary Philip Barton, an EU official said of the latest vaccine clash, on Wednesday.
After accusing Britain on Tuesday of having “an outright ban” on vaccine exports, Michel then said there were “different ways of imposing bans or restrictions on vaccines”. According to the EU officials, Britain effectively prevents exports by using a UK-first clause in its contract with AstraZeneca, the only company producing Covid-19 jabs in Britain, briefed by the pharmaceutical company.