The European Commission has already caught flak over its “farcical” centralised vaccine-buying programme. But leading Euro-federalist Guy Verhofstadt found a new line of attack, pointing out that its contract with AstraZeneca was full of holes compared to that of the the watertight British “speedboat”.
One of the European Union’s top cheerleaders has blamed its powerful Commission for defeat in the ‘Vaccine War’ with the UK.
Italian public broadcaster RAI published the UK’s contrast with Astrazeneca on Thursday, weeks after the EU released a redacted version of its own contract with the firm. That came after Commission President Ursula von der Leyen threatened to sue the firm and force it to divert supplies of its Oxford University-developed jab from Britain to the continent.
Verhofstadt scorned early reports that the two texts were near-identical, stressing: “The devil is in the detail”.
And he highlighted that the British deal relied on production at AstraZeneca’s two UK facilities in Oxford and Wrexham, Wales, which the firm assured in the contract was enough to meet demand. But the EU’s contract was vague once again, referring to the “overall supply chain, without special emphasis on the fulfillment of the EU-wide demand for doses.”
Earlier this week Verhofstadt, one of the most strident critics of Brexit, branded Commission von der Leyen’s performance “farcical” — especially the former German defence minister’s disastrous attempt to wage a ‘vaccine war’ on the UK over the slow pace of deliveries from AstraZeneca.
The Commission chief was forced into a humiliating after she ordered the land border between the Republic of Ireland and the UK closed — without consulting either country’s government — in a bid to stop German firm Pfizer honouring its contract to supply vaccines to Britain.
Another key difference between the two contracts is the delivery schedule, which is “precisely” set out in terms of delivery dates and volumes for the UK but only speaks of an “estimated time schedule” for the EU.
And the MEP also dealt with the claim that British PM Boris Johnson’s government jumped the queue by offering to pay more per dose. While AstraZeneca has only charged a “Cost of Goods” price for its vaccine — forgoing a profit — the UK contract gives the firm “Open Book” flexibility to add on unforeseen costs, “conversely giving the UK authorities leverage, through the open book method, to oblige AstraZeneca to fulfill its commitments”.
Verhofstadt also criticised the Commission’s much-vaunted “investment” in the AstraZeneca jab, which von der Leyen claimed last month entitled it to the lion’s share of production.
Verhofstadt also scotched the widely-reported narrative that the EU lost out by coming late to the negotiating table, pointing out that the UK signed its contract for the Oxford vaccines a day after the EU did.