Boris Johnson has rejected the possibility the UK could engage in a tit-for-tat vaccine export war with the European Union after it threatened to halt supplies during a row with AstraZeneca.
The Prime Minister said told a press conference on Tuesday that Britain does not believe in engaging in “blockades of any kind”, as he signalled tensions could be thawing during talks with the bloc.
Addressing Tory MPs later, a source confirmed to PA news agency that Mr Johnson said capitalism and “greed” had been behind the UK’s vaccine drive success, in comments first reported by The Sun.
However, the Conservative Party leader is understood to have repeatedly asked those at the 1922 Committee meeting of backbenchers to forget he used the term as he praised AstraZeneca for supplying the Oxford vaccine at cost.
AstraZeneca has been at the heart of a cross-Channel row after EU chief Ursula von der Leyen threatened to halt vaccine exports amid pressure over the pace of the bloc’s rollout.
But Mr Johnson told a Downing Street press conference: “We’ll continue to work with European partners to deliver the vaccine rollout.
“All I can say is we in this country don’t believe in blockades of any kind of vaccines or vaccine materials.
“It’s not something that this country would dream of engaging in and I’m encouraged in some of the things I’ve heard from the continent in the same sense.”
Diplomatic efforts have tried to ward off a possible ban on vaccine exports.
Across the EU, just over 10% of adults have received a first dose of a Covid-19 vaccine but in the UK the figure is over 53%.
Downing Street did not deny reports that AstraZeneca vaccines manufactured at the Halix facility in the Netherlands could be shared with the EU to prevent an export ban.
Former ambassador to the EU Sir Tim Barrow is believed to be among the advisers dispatched to Brussels to try to negotiate a solution.