The European Union really isn’t having a good pandemic. In fact, it is hard to calculate quite how bad a pandemic it is having. Whilst it is true that very few are having a good one, and the number of deaths attributed to the Chinese-incubated virus, around the world, is sobering, the EU’s run since the virus arrived, like an unwelcome package tourist at the main airport hubs last year has been truly awful. They make the Jacksonville Jaguars look like Superbowl contenders.
The latest work of staggering genius has been (another) diplomatic spat with the UK over vaccines. Now the UK has had a bad year for death rates, but frankly that hasn’t really been the Government’s fault. Looking at our death statistics and the vast majority of those who have died from or with the virus have either been elderly or morbidly fat.
Our weight problems are largely our own individual affair. The Government cannot be blamed for our auto-pie stuffing, nor our physical laziness. And while the UK’s government would win no prizes when it comes to the protection of civil liberties over lockdown, apart from perhaps a doff of the cap from Pyongyang, its actions over vaccinations has left its European neighbours and most of the rest of the world in the shade.
The spat centres on a claim by the President of the European Council of Ministers (a sort of insipid, putative POTEUS, a Belgian by the name of Charles Michel) that the UK is banning the export of Covid vaccines. This has resulted in our Foreign Secretary summoning the EU representative in London for a dressing down, and what is being described as a strongly worded letter – a howler – being fired towards Brussels. There has been no suggestion of any such UK ban. Indeed, the UK has been exporting vaccine components quite happily. The problem the EU has with the UK, which is at the root of its comedy chauvinism, is that post Brexit UK was able to set its own contracts, which it did quickly. More importantly it made it clear in its contracts that it expected its vaccine delivery to come about as a priority. The EU in its contracts made no such specification. The UK also registered the vaccines for use in a far timelier fashion than the EU. Today the UK has vaccinated 23 million people, about a third of the population, while the EU has vaccinated a fraction of that number. Worse than that, despite increasing evidence in the vaccines efficacy in preventing Covid transmission, the EU’s anger with the UK’s performance caused the French President to state things that would have him banned from Facebook about the UK-developed Astrazeneca vaccine, and Mrs. Merkle has still not taken the jab, despite her age. Not good messages to an already vaccine sceptic population.
The EU, in its panic, has behaved like a schoolyard shooter, indiscriminately taking shots at bystanders, without any rhyme or reason. It attempted to block the Irish border, thus heightening tensions and adding to the risk of terrorism – until shouted down by the Governments’ of the UK and Ireland. And, it instituted export controls on healthcare. For an organisation whose partisans claim is purely rules based, it has torn them up and, through Mr. Michel and the French and German political leadership, acted like spoilt children.
The rank hypocrisy of this could almost make one laugh, when we see that the European Union has encouraged Italy in banning the export of vaccines to Australia. 250,000 doses of the Oxford/Astrazeneca vaccine which were being bottled in Italy were held back. Japan has also voiced its concerns about the threat to its own vaccine supply. This all comes when the EU, days later, begged the US to be gentle with it when it came to exports. It would be funny, if it were not the case that their incompetence and arrogance isn’t just causing it to become a diplomatic laughing stock and pariah, but it will also lead to the unnecessary deaths of thousands of its own citizens.
While all this is happening, the key European Union principle of solidarity, exemplified by its demanding that its component nation states hand their vaccine strategy to Brussels, has resulted in a political centrifuge. National polling shows plummeting trust in firstly the EU, and far more importantly in local political leaderships. Today almost half of the EU nations have junked the centralized planning and are striking out on their own. Normally placid nations like Denmark and Austria amongst the leading rebels.
The ramifications of all this chaos will be complex and significant. Popular trust in the EU institutions is at an all time low, despite the EU itself claiming that its strategy is a success. The impact on the EU’s self-confidence, and its ability to demand fealty from the nation states, may be fatally compromised. That, however, may not be the worst of it going forward. The cavalier way that it has interfered in the workings of the market and international trade is making it an untrustworthy trading partner at a time post-Covid, trust will be at a premium. The EU’s similar approach to innovative companies, particularly in the pharma sector, will cause anybody thinking of investing in cutting-edge, research-driven industry to think very hard about the risk of appropriation if they do so. When investment and trade is slowing down and your global market share is dropping year by year, building up a bonfire of your principles just might not be the most sensible approach.
The spat with Britain, the lies about us, is just part of the bigger picture. The EU has tried to annex Northern Ireland, has behaved abominably by trying to break the agreement and is finding itself in a weaker position due to its Covid failures. Its strategy is now to attempt to bully the UK through institutional lawfare. Other continental politicians have tried to bully us in the past. It rarely works out well for them.
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