Former prime minister Boris Johnson asked the British security services to draw up plans to raid the Dutch Covid vaccine factory in Leiden, according to a bizarre claim by Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper.
Johnson made the call after saying the EU ‘stole’ millions of AstraZeneca doses destined for Britain during the pandemic, the paper said. The idea was only abandoned after diplomats warned it would damage the relationship between the two countries and jeopardise the supply of vaccines from plants elsewhere in the EU.
The paper says Johnson will mention the episode when he appears before an inquiry into the British government’s approach to the coronavirus pandemic this week. The paper bases its claim on diplomatic sources.
The sources told the Mail that the EU had “basically sequestered” and “impounded” five million doses of the vaccine. “Of course, the PM was enraged – they were putting British lives at risk to make a political point and distract from their own failings,” one of the sources is quoted as saying.
The AstraZeneca vaccine was produced at two locations in the EU – in the Netherlands and Belgium – and two in the UK.
In 2021, the company twice cut expected deliveries to the EU, which slowed the vaccination programme. And although the company blamed production problems in Belgium, the EU suspected at the time that British orders were being prioritised.
Dutch government officials told Politico.eu in March 2021 that the Netherlands was ready to block shipments of AstraZeneca’s coronavirus vaccine if Britain did not agree to a deal to share vaccines more fairly with the EU.
If the EU and Britain fail to reach agreement and Brussels decides to block the export request ‘the Dutch government can be expected to follow the Commission in its verdict,’ a diplomat told the website at the time.
The company at the centre of the dispute is Leiden-based Halix which signed a contract to manufacture the AstraZeneca vaccine on December 8, 2020.
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