The disarray surrounding Brussels’ vaccine rollout has led the normally anti-Brexit German newspaper Die Zeit to comment dryly that the European Commission is currently providing “the best advertisement for Brexit.” At the time the Government decided to go it alone last July, the Prime Minister was roundly attacked by Remainers over his “Brexity delusions of sovereignty”. He was accused of putting ideology before saving people’s lives.
This view was expressed most notably and vociferously by the Liberal Democrat MP Layla Moran during her bid to become party leader.
In a letter to Health Secretary Matt Hancock, she wrote: “I urge you to participate [in order to] develop an effective vaccine and then secure sufficient supplies as quickly as possible through advance purchase deals with manufacturers.
“I implore you to put lives ahead of ideology.”
In an opinion piece for The Times, Dominic Lawson argued that it was precisely the “ideology” of Brexit that allowed the UK to act decisively over vaccines.
Mr Lawson wrote: “If it was the “ideology” of Brexit — that the UK is better off taking decisions by and for itself rather than in lock step with the European Commission and 27 other nations — then that can take the credit for saving British lives.
“Or, as Kate Bingham, who (unpaid) headed the UK vaccine task force, said: ‘We were quick and nimble. We were clearly not the largest buyer.
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The EU eventually signed a deal in August for 300 million AstraZeneca doses, with an option for 100 million more.
However, the UK-Swedish company abruptly announced last month delays to its European deliveries, which according to media reports would mean a 60 percent cut in supplies to the end of March.
This has led to a bitter row with the Commission, which has accused the company of prioritising the UK over Europe.