BORIS Johnson today slammed false claims that Britain has blocked vaccine exports to the EU – and said politicians opposed “vaccine nationalism”.
The PM today slapped EU Council chief Charles Michel over his wrong claims that the UK had stopped jabs from getting to the continent.
As tensions boiled over the foreign secretary summoned the bloc’s representative in London to a dressing down over the claim.
Boris Johnson started today’s PMQS session today by setting the record straight to MPs.
He said: “I therefore wish to correct the suggestion from the European Council President, that the UK has blocked vaccine exports. And let me be clear we have not blocked the export of a single COVID-19 vaccine, or vaccine components.
“This pandemic has put us all on the same side in the battle for global health, we oppose vaccine nationalism in all its forms.
“I trust that all sides of the house will join me in rejecting this suggestion, and calling on all our partners to work together to tackle this pandemic.”
Mr Raab last night fired off a furious letter to Belgian eurocrat Mr Michel demanding he “set the record straight”.
Mr Raab wrote: “The UK Government has not blocked the export of a single COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine components.
“Any references to a UK export ban or any restrictions on vaccines are completely false.”
And he added: “We are all facing this pandemic together.”
Sources said a representative of the EU’s delegation to the UK has been summoned to a meeting at the Foreign Office to discuss the issue further.
The blazing row came after Mr Michel attacked the UK in a desperate attempt to deflect from global fury at eurocrats’ decision to block a shipment of jabs to Australia.
In a blog post attempting to justify the move the top official claimed Europe is only acting in the same way as Britain and the US.
He wrote “I am shocked when I hear the accusations of vaccine nationalism against the EU.
“The UK and US have imposed an outright ban on the export of vaccines or vaccine components produced on their territory.
“But the EU has simply put in place a system for controlling the export of doses produced in the EU.”
Commission boss Ursula von der Leyen has also made the same claim. The US has a ban in place, but Britain doesn’t.
Their remarks sparked astonishment and fury in Whitehall and were dismissed as untrue.
In late January the EU announced an export ban on vaccines and their ingredients as part of its ongoing battle with AstraZeneca.
Under the “transparency” scheme all pharma companies have to alert national authorities when they want to send shipments outside of Europe.
EU capitals then consult the Commission, and between them the pair can choose to step in and block any delivery.
Last week the ban was used for the first time when Italy stopped an order of 250,000 AZ jabs to Australia.
The move sparked fury in Canberra, which is now building an international coalition to pressure the EU into dropping the policy entirely.
Canada, Japan, Norway, and New Zealand are all on board.
Brussels has accused the Anglo-Swedish firm of failing to fulfil its contract and suspects it’s shipping doses that should be used in Europe abroad.
AZ has cut planned first-quarter deliveries from 90m to 40m and told Brussels second-quarter supplies will also be halved.
The UK does have some restrictions on the export of Covid-related medicines, but British officials insist they’re less burdensome.
Unlike the EU’s ban they don’t apply to manufacturers or impose any extra red tape on them, and they don’t target specific countries.
Britain has also experienced supply issues with AZ and only expects to receive a third of the doses hoped for by the end of this month.
The UK put considerable funding into the development of the firm’s vaccine, including facilitating its tie-up with Oxford.