Really, Macron? ‘Desperate’ French leader mocked for swiping 5m jabs in AstraZeneca U-turn
AstraZeneca vaccine: EU's stance discussed by virologist
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The Covid jabs – developed by AstraZeneca in conjunction with Oxford University – were expected to arrive in Britain from the company’s Halix site in Holland, Executive President Ruud Dobber confirmed in March. However, following an intervention by Mr Macron, it never arrived, and the UK Government this week confirmed it was instead diverted to the EU’s sluggish vaccine rollout programme, and by implication France, at Mr Macron’s insistence, infuriating Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has made no secret of his displeasure.
Mr Macron’s move is all the more brazen given his previous remarks about AstraZeneca.
In January, he told reporters: “The real problem on AstraZeneca is that it doesn’t work the way we were expecting it to.
“We’re waiting for the European Medicines Agency results, but today everything points to thinking it is quasi-ineffective on people older than 65, some say those 60 years or older.”
David Jones, the deputy chairman of Parliament’s European Research Group (ERG) suggested Mr Macron is motivated by a desire to make life difficult for Britain, coupled with concerns about his prospects of winning a second term.
Mr Jones, the Tory MP for Clwyd West, told Express.co.uk: “This is part of a pattern of behaviour that we have come to expect from M. Macron.
“Only this week he instructed his Europe minister, Clement Beaune, to threaten to cut off electricity supplies to Jersey in the dispute with the UK over fishing licences.
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“So it comes as no surprise that he should try to divert a British-developed vaccine that he was simultaneously calling ‘quasi-ineffective’.”
With Mr Macron facing challengers including National Rally’s Marine Le Pen, centre-right rival Xavier Bertrand, and even former Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, Mr Jones suggested the 43-year-old was also sending a message to French voters.
He explained: “The truth is that M Macron is desperately worried about next year’s French presidential election and he considers it politically expedient to try to bash the Brits.
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“Sadly for him, he appears to be having little impact, with public opinion polls showing net disapproval for his performance.
“A recent poll showed an approval rating of only 29 percent, suggesting that his apparently tough stance is having no impact with French voters and that his days in the Elysee Palace may well be numbered.”
Speaking in March, an EU diplomat said: “AstraZeneca has made promises to both the UK and the EU that it cannot fulfil. So there will need to be some sort of deal.”
“But it’s worth remembering that these Halix doses are in the EU, and AstraZeneca needs permission to ship any of them to the UK, so the cards are stacked against the UK.”
Furious UK Government insiders suggested Mr Macron’s behaviour was “akin to an act of war”, and suggested he was acting like a mini Napoleon.
One insider told the Sun: “The French stole our vaccines at the same time as they were slagging them off in public and suggesting they weren’t safe to use.
“It was an outrageous thing to do and not the action of an ally, which was made very clear to them.
“Withholding vaccines by stopping them leaving the EU had the potential to cost lives with people waiting for both first and second jabs.
“We had a solid vaccine plan in place and this meant we were able to keep on jabbing. But it was an astonishing, outrageous thing to do.”
In March, Britain’s vaccine rollout was far outpacing that of all EU nations, including France.
By the end of that month, 46 percent of Britons had had at least one Covid jab, compared with just 13 percent of French citizens.
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