UK’s Remainers question love for EU amid vaccine row

first_imgMatthew Goodwin, professor of politics and international relations at the University of Kent, said the polling was significant. LONDON — Brexiteers are claiming victory in Europe’s vaccine war as even the European Union’s British cheerleaders turn on their former lodestar. An editorial on Monday in the Guardian, a pro-Remain publication, warned a mixture of nationalism and protectionism was blocking the world’s exit from the coronavirus crisis, describing the EU export threat as “concerning.” Tory MP Stephen Hammond, a pro-European who was briefly ejected from the Conservative Party for supporting a bill seeking to block a no-deal Brexit, said people were “baffled about the actions of the EU” over the AstraZeneca vaccine. Voiced by Amazon Polly Press play to listen to this article Still, politicians and pollsters warn things could change if the row does hit vaccine supply lines in. the U.K..The issue is not yet coming up unprompted in focus groups, James Johnson, a former No. 10 pollster under May who has set up his own company, said. But he warned: “If it genuinely endangers vaccine supply in the U.K., I think then that that could be a real problem, it could change and radicalize those things.” Threats to block the export of millions of doses of coronavirus vaccine from EU member countries have prompted criticism of the bloc from even the most Remain-backing corners of the British political classes. “I think people are just too consumed with trying to get on with their own lives at the minute,” she said. Emma Lewell-Buck, another Labour MP, representing the Brexit-voting area of South Shields in the northeast of England, said the issue was peripheral. “If you believe as I do that this is really the first test for the U.K. state since Brexit, then there is a real possibility that actually this will change the game in how people think and feel about Britain’s relationship with Europe,” he said. “I think it shows that the U.K. is able to meet some of these challenges, outside of the European Union. I think it gives Boris Johnson a powerful narrative about the U.K.’s ability to outmaneuver other nations on some of these issues, and the optics are not good for the European Union.” Opinion polls suggest the European Union is losing the public relations battle over vaccines among British audiences. First big moment Former editor of the Financial Times Lionel Barber, who was offered France’s highest honor — the Légion d’honneur — in recognition of the paper’s “positive role in the European debate” under his leadership, on Monday accused the European Commission of wanting “to have its cake and eat it.” “I think it’ll become an issue if we run out of vaccines, or if there’s a delay, or if suddenly the program starts to slow down,” Lewell-Buck said. But, the poll suggests, only one in five of those who voted to stay in the bloc in 2016 believe leaving had made Britain’s response to the pandemic worse. “Brussels has enough vaccines. Having stumbled, the bloc’s leaders know it looks bad to see doses leaving the EU for Britain, which has already vaccinated half its population. European leaders should realise that only cooperation can end the pandemic,” the paper said. European leaders will discuss export bans, first articulated by Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last week, at a virtual European Council summit on Thursday. It comes amid a slow-moving vaccine rollout across the bloc while Britain has managed to vaccinate 28 million people — over half its adult population. However, that MP said at some level, most voters think “it’s their problem, we’re okay, it’s fine.” “The people that disproportionately come out and vote — they have had their first jab. They are cock-a-hoop at the moment,” one Remain-backing Labour MP said. “If they had been told repeatedly ‘your jab is being delayed’ then they would probably put two and two together and start buying into the headlines ‘Europe to blame.'” Wider shrug But others downplay the significance of the row, believing it will only play a small role in the final analysis. What matters, they say, is whether Britain’s jabs program continues to push ahead. A survey by Ipsos MORI over the weekend showed that two-thirds (67 percent) of Britons believe the U.K. has handled the COVID-19 vaccination program better than governments of countries in the EU. Two-fifths (40 percent) of Britons believe Brexit has made Britain’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic better —  although those who voted to leave the European Union in 2016 are significantly more likely to believe the U.K.’s exit has had a positive effect on how it has handled the pandemic. He added: “At the moment, the British public, they’re sort of quite content with our own vaccine rollout, they know the EU one is rubbish, but they’re not really linking it back to Brexit in their minds at this point.” Von der Leyen looks “increasingly like the Theresa May of Brussels,” Andrew Adonis, a Labour peer who was a leading campaigner for a second referendum, said on Twitter on Tuesday, referring to the former prime minister who struggled to turn Brexit into a reality. “The vaccine crisis shows an alarming power vacuum & absence of leadership in Europe,” he added. Want more analysis from POLITICO? POLITICO Pro is our premium intelligence service for professionals. From financial services to trade, technology, cybersecurity and more, Pro delivers real time intelligence, deep insight and breaking scoops you need to keep one step ahead. Email [email protected] to request a complimentary trial.last_img

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