The reasons for the vaccine confrontation between the European Union and the United Kingdom

The reasons for the vaccine confrontation between the European Union and the United Kingdom

The contracts signed by London would be more detailed and stringent. A diplomatic way is sought to resolve the controversy that sees AstraZeneca at the center

(photo: Jack Hill - WPA Pool / Getty Images) In recent days, the block on the export of vaccines from the continent, threatened by the President of the European Commission Ursula von der Leyen, has reignited the confrontation between the European Union and the United Kingdom.

Tensions began in January, when AstraZeneca announced that it would be delivering fewer doses to the Union than expected, due to production delays in the plants in Belgium and Holland. At that time the European institutions accused AstraZeneca of having delivered the doses planned for European countries abroad - and in particular to the United Kingdom. On that occasion, the Union had also threatened the closure of the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland, a hypothesis that was resolved within a few hours, following much criticism. The roots of the problem can be found in the two contracts signed with the pharmaceutical company: the British one would be more stringent in terms of its terms than the European one.

The two contracts have the same objective: to obtain vaccines for the entire population in the shortest possible time. However, according to what Politico analysts reported, the UK contract is "in some respects more detailed". One of the causes is the different legal system on which they are based. According to English law, the parties are bound by the exact text of the contract. While the European one is based on Belgian law, which focuses on acting "at best and in good faith" in completing what has been established. In addition, under the UK contract, in the event that certain doses are withheld by the company, the government is authorized to terminate the relationship and proceed with sanctions. Instead, the European one establishes that the Union can suspend payments until the delivery of the doses or until the company finds additional producers to supply the vaccines and sue the company.

In invoking the threat of the blocking of exports, Brussels has also accused London of having imposed its own informal blockade, contained in the contract. As reported by Politico, AstraZeneca can export doses from the UK to Europe, but only when London has received sufficient supplies. So far, the Union has not received UK-produced doses, while over 10 million European-produced doses of Pfizer have been exported to the former member country. The blockade threatened by von der Leyen would not only affect ready-made vaccines, but also the facilities that provide the materials with which to produce them. This would severely slow down the work of AstraZeneca's manufacturing centers concentrated in the UK, putting a strong halt to the vaccination campaign which, so far, has been much more effective than the European one.

However, despite tensions, the two blocs are seeking an agreement that will lead to the resolution of the dispute. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was reassured by talks with "European partners of their willingness not to impose limits on exports". On the other side of the Channel, European diplomats have also expressed words of reconciliation, declaring that the problem “is not between the Union and the United Kingdom, but with AstraZeneca”.

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