Brexit news latest – Fury as EU DOUBLES DOWN on sick threat to block UK's Pfizer vaccine supply after AstraZeneca row

THE EU has doubled down on its threat to block supplies of the Pfizer vaccine heading to the UK after a row over AstraZeneca jabs.

Yesterday it was revealed that, due to delays approving the vaccine and the EU's joint-procurement system, the bloc will receive just 30 million doses of the UK-made AstraZeneca rather than the 80 million they ordered.

The development has left the EU fuming and threatening to hinder supplies of the lifesaving Belgium-made Pfizer vaccine heading into Britain by demanding companies ask for permission to take vaccines out of the bloc.

The move sparked widespread fury in the UK but this afternoon the EU doubled down on its threat – even suggesting Britain had squirrelled away the EU's 50 million dose order deficit for itself, the Telegraph reported.

Follow our live blog below for the very latest on Brexit and the EU…

  • Patrick Knox

    UK HEALTH SECRETARY MATT HANCOCK HITS OUT AT EU COVID VACCINE THREAT

    It comes as the bloc threatened to impose controls on the export of coronavirus vaccines.

    Hancock said: “Protectionism is not the right approach in a pandemic”.

    He also said he had spoken to manufacturers Astrazeneca and Pfizer and added: “I’m confident of the supply of vaccines into the UK.”

  • Patrick Knox

    WHAT IS THE EUROPEAN UNION?

    The European Union is an economic and political partnership.

    There are currently 28 members states including the United Kingdom.

    It began as a trade group of six nations in the 1950s.

    The UK first applied to join what was then the European Economic Community in 1961 and finally became a member in 1973.

    Now called the European Union, it has grown to include former Soviet bloc states and has at its heart a "single market" allowing goods and people to move freely.

  • Patrick Knox

    WHAT IS BREXIT?

    Brexit is the merging of the words "Britain" and "exit" and refers to the country's exit from the European Union.

    The term has been widely used ever since the idea of a referendum on the UK leaving the trading bloc was put forward.

    More than 30 million people voted in the June 2016 referendum with a turnout of 71.8 per cent. Leave won by 52 per cent to 48 per cent.

  • Patrick Knox

    POLICE CHIEFS 'CONFIDENT' IN UK'S BREXIT SECURITY AGREEMENT

    Senior figures at the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the National Police Chiefs' Council (NPCC) told peers a "good deal" was in place after the end of the transition period, which largely mirrored existing arrangements, and at this stage they do not think it has left "gaps" in their ability to fight crime.

    Earlier this month Government officials insisted the UK was not missing out on intelligence about wanted criminals after losing access to the European Union's Schengen Information System II (SIS II) database of alerts about people and stolen items such as guns and cars, which it has been using since 2015.

    As a result, some 40,000 alerts on dangerous criminals and wanted suspects had to be deleted at the end of December when the country left the EU.

  • Patrick Knox

    SCOTTISH AND WELSH GOVERNMENTS IN JOINT EFFORT TO MAINTAIN ERASMUS SCHEME

    Ministers in Scotland and Wales say they will work together to explore how students in their countries can benefit from the Erasmus exchange programme, despite the UK leaving due to Brexit.

    The Scottish and Welsh governments say the proposed replacement for Erasmus falls short of what the EU programme offered.

    The UK Government's alternative – named the Turing Scheme after the codebreaker Alan Turing – will receive around £100 million in the next academic year.

  • Alice Peacock

    BREXIT-THEMED TEXT SCAM CIRCULATING UK

    Brits are being urged to be vigilant as a Brexit-themed text scam reportedly makes it's way around the UK.

    The Chartered Standards Trading Institute reported receiving evidence of a phishing text scam, themed around the UK's exit from the European Union.

    The message read: "we need to verify your identity to keep up with EU standards".

    It then instructed the recipient that "to avoid restrictions" they must visit a website to upload their personal details. 

    Lead officer at CTSI, Katherine Hart, urged recipients of the message to report it to authorities.

  • Patrick Knox

    FRANCE PLOTS TO CUT OFF BRITAIN FROM POWER GRID TO KEEP CONTROL OVER FISHERIES

    French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves le Drian argued France intends to strong-arm the UK into giving its fishing vessels continued access into UK waters past 2026.

     Speaking to France 3 Bretagne, he said the French will be hoping to renew rather than change the current deal on fisheries,

    And, he said, if the UK were to argue against this, France could threaten to make things difficult for the UK in the energy market.

  • Patrick Knox

    PARLIAMENT TO DEBATE LACK OF VISA-FREE TRAVEL FOR MUSICIANS

    MPs will debate the post-Brexit travel arrangements for musicians and other touring artists.

    This comes after a petition calling on the government to negotiate visa-free work permit with the EU.

    It gained more than 100,000 signatures.

  • Patrick Knox

    ‘BREXIT DEAL SKEWED IN FAVOUR OF THE EU’

    Britain’s economy is set to become “significantly smaller” because of the Brexit deal, according to the leading financial analysts at Moody’s.

    In a scathing report, Moody’s said the agreement was “skewed in favour of the EU, with the UK willing to accept significant new barriers to trade in areas in which it has a competitive advantage”.

    It adds: “The new arrangements … will entail significant negative macroeconomic consequences for the UK that are structural in nature.”

  • Patrick Knox

    CARD FEES SET TO RISE FOR BRITONS BUYING FROM EU

    British shoppers buying goods from European websites face higher prices after Mastercard announced plans to increase the fees it charges EU companies to process payments from the UK.

    Mastercard and Visa both levy "interchange" fees on behalf of banks for every debit or credit card payment that uses their networks. 

    The EU put a cap on these in 2015 after concerns that they lacked transparency and added to costs for businesses and consumers.

    Mastercard has told retailers on the continent that after Brexit the cap no longer applies to transactions from the UK. 

    From October it intends to raise the 0.3 per cent and 0.2 per cent levies on credit card and debit card payments to 1.5 per cent and 1.15 per cent respectively. It will benefit banks and card issuers rather than Mastercard itself.

  • Patrick Knox

    TRADE FROM BRITAIN TO IRELAND ‘HALF THE LEVEL OF 2020’

    Irish customs officials say they are “concerned”, as hauliers and importers grapple with new customs red tape.

    Eddie Burke, from Ireland’s Department of Transport, acknowledged that many businesses, large and small, were experiencing “severe difficulty” adapting to the new customs procedures.

    Liverpool docks is major hub for trade with IrleandCredit: Alamy
  • Patrick Knox

    HISTORIC ENGLISH SHOE-MAKER COUNTS THE COSTS OF BREXIT

    At Tricker's, a 192-year-old maker of English luxury shoes beloved by Prince Charles and Japanese fashionistas, relief at averting a no-deal Brexit quickly turned to dismay at the new price of doing business with the European Union.

    Invoices are mounting from parcel firms that ship the company's heavy brogue shoes and boots – which typically sell for £450 pounds to EU clients, saddling it with extra costs that could hit £100,000 a year.

    A last-gasp trade deal between London and Brussels avoided the big barrier of border tariffs.

    But Tricker's, like many firms on both sides of the border, is finding that paying value-added tax has become a lot more complicated for direct sales to consumers.

  • Patrick Knox

    ‘IDIOT ACTIVITY AT NO 10 BLAMED OR END OF EXPORTS

    British company Trees Online stated on its website: “Due to long term idiot activity concluding at No 10, we can no longer send any plants to Northern Ireland or the EU. 

    “As compensation for naked gardens you can have Sovereignty."

  • Patrick Knox

    PETITION LAUNCHED TO CANCEL FESTIVAL OF BREXIT 

    The government has defied fresh calls to scrap the Festival of Brexit – due to take place in 2022 at a cost to taxpayers of £120 million – after a petition was launched to cancel it.

    A spokesperson has claimed it will give the country a chance to "champion all that is great about the UK".

    But campaigners claim that the money would be better spent helping the UK recover from the coronavirus pandemic.

    Lib Dem MP Jamie Stone, Liberal Democrats' spokesperson for digital, culture, media and sport, said: "Britain's culture calamity is real thanks to Brexit, yet the taxpayer is being asked to cough up £120 million for bread and circuses.

  • Patrick Knox

    KIDS PRESCRIBED CANNABIS GIVEN HALF-YEAR REPRIEVE FROM BREXIT RULES

    Imports of medical cannabis to more than 40 children with severe epilepsy have been given a six-month reprieve – after being halted due to Brexit.

    The Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) said the Dutch government has confirmed it will allow the continued supply of Bedrocan oil from the Netherlands to existing UK patients until July 1 this year.

    A DHSC letter sent to Hannah Deacon, whose nine-year-old son Alfie uses the oil to prevent seizures, said a "permanent solution" to the situation is being sought.

    Ms Deacon, from Warwickshire, warned earlier this month that her son's life was at risk after the DHSC said oils dispensed in the Netherlands against UK prescriptions were "no longer an option".

    She also questioned why affected families had been given just two weeks' notice by the DHSC that, due to the end of the Brexit transition period, prescriptions issued in the UK would no longer be lawfully dispensed in an EU member state.

  • Patrick Knox

    CAN I DRIVE IN THE EU AFTER BREXIT

    From January 1, many EU countries will need you to get an International Driving Permit.

    That costs £5.50 at your local Post Office.

    You will also have to apply for a 'green card' to prove you have the right car insurance.

    The certificates are free of charge – but they're also really important.

    Travellers who forget them will be forced to buy expensive 'frontier' insurance in the country they are visiting.

  • Patrick Knox

    CAN I STILL GO ON HOLIDAY TO EUROPE WITHOUT A VISA?

    Absolutely. Brits can travel across Europe without a visa for up to six months in a year, and a maximum of 90 days within a 180-day period.

    There's nothing new there – that would have been the case even in the event of a No Deal Brexit.

    However, if you're planning on taking a sunshine break next year, remember your freedom to travel could depend on coronavirus restrictions.

    You should have at least six months left on your passport before you travel, as already advised by the Government.

  • Patrick Knox

    NEW DELAYS TO FLAGSHIP ENVIRONMENTAL POST-BREXIT LAW

    Campaigners have criticised new delays to flagship environmental legislation on pollution, wildlife protection and cutting waste.

    The Environment Bill seeks to write environmental principles in UK law for the first time, following Brexit, but the Government has delayed the passage of the Bill, so it is not expected to become law until the autumn.

    The legislation includes setting targets for air quality, water, biodiversity and waste reduction, and outlining what standard must be achieved and by what date.

    The latest delay to the legislation, which was first introduced in 2019, comes as the UK is trying to build momentum for global action on the environment, including on climate change in its role as host of crucial UN Cop26 talks.

  • Patrick Knox

    DYSON HOPES TO BAG £180M IN EU ENERGY LABELS DISPUTE

    Dyson is seeking damages of up to £180 million in a long-running dispute with Brussels over energy labelling.

    The vacuum cleaner maker argues that it deserves recompense for lost sales and profits as a result of a European Commission directive on efficiency labelling. 

    An oral hearing of damages begins this week.

  • Patrick Knox

    ‘NO POST-BREXIT BOOST FOR SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE’

    The three polls taken on Scottish independence since the start of 2021 do not show any sign the UK’s exit from the EU has led to any further boost in support for a breakaway, according to opinion poll guru Sir John Curtice.

    Sir John told the BBC there has been a slight dip in support for independence north of the border. 

    He said: “Indeed, at 53 per cent the average level of support for Yes was slightly down on the 55 per cent recorded by the same three polls at the back end of last year.”

  • Patrick Knox

    TORY MP ATTACKS ‘SPITEFUL’ EU

    David Jones said it was “childish and spiteful” of the EU to threaten exports of the vaccine.

    There are now fears the row could disrupt supplies of the Pfizer vaccine to the UK because Pfizer’s main factory is in Belgium.

  • Patrick Knox

    ‘NO RISK TO DELIVERY OF PFIZER VACCINE’

    Vaccine minister Nadhim Zawahi has sought to play down growing fears of “vaccine nationalism”.

    He said he was “confident” tens of millions of doses of Pfizer jabs ordered from Belgium will arrive.

    This is despite the EU threatening to impose controls over the row with UK-based AstraZeneca,

  • Patrick Knox

    BRITAIN CONFIDENT VACCINE MAKERS WILL DELIVER FOR BOTH UK AND EU

    Britain and the European Union should both get the vaccines they have ordered and it is wrong to respond to supply problems with restrictions, Nadhim Zahawi, the British Covid-19 vaccine deployment minister, said today.

    German Health Minister Jens Spahn earlier backed EU proposals to restrict vaccines leaving the bloc, saying Europe should have its "fair share".

    Zahawi said that he was confident the manufacturers of the three COVID-19 vaccines approved for British use, Pfizer, AstraZeneca and Moderna, would be able to meet their supply obligations, for both Britain and the EU.

    The EU proposal comes in the wake of AstraZeneca's decision to cut its supply to the EU by 60 per cent to 31 million doses for the first quarter of the year, while Pfizer has also altered delivery schedules.

    "I'm very confident that Pfizer… will deliver for the EU and will deliver for the UK, as will AstraZeneca," Zahawi told Times Radio. "Vaccine nationalism is the wrong way to go. No one is safe until we're all safe."

  • Patrick Knox

    PORT CHIEFS PLEAD FOR MORE MONEY

    UK port bosses have warned they cannot cope with the new post-Brexit border bureaucracy is falling behind because of a lack of government funding.

    Portsmouth International Port said the importation of livestock for breeding could end soon unless there’s more cash.

    The port, owned by Portsmouth City Council, asked for £32m in funds but was only granted £17.1m for essential schemes.

    Currently, breeding animals are allowed to continue to be brought into the country from the EU untilJuly 1.

    The port’s report says: “From start to finish, this has been a frustrating process and precious time is being eaten up.”

  • Patrick Knox

    INCOMING TRADE FROM GREAT BRITAIN REMAINS AT 'HALF THE LEVEL OF 2020'

    Irish customs officials say they are "concerned" about the low levels of goods coming into the country, as hauliers and importers grapple with new customs red tape.

    Eddie Burke, from the Department of Transport, said he would like to see the volume of incoming goods increase quicker than is currently happening.

    He told a briefing at Dublin Port: "What we've seen is very low volumes coming across from GB. We meet with the shipping companies and keep in contact with them on daily basis. And likewise, with the hauliers.

    "What we've seen from them and heard from them is that about 50 per cent of business is coming across from GB that would have been the case this time last year.”

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