Clément Beaune, incumbent Secretary of State for European affairs in the French government, said he still believes in the “European framework”. He also insisted the current difficulties lie in “industrial production” and resorting to “national procedures” would not be a solution to the problems. The leading French minister tweeted: “Vaccines – I firmly believe in this European framework, not out of ideology, but because today the difficulties lie in industrial production.
“Resorting to national procedures would not solve the problem.”
But the claims from Mr Beaune were brutally torn apart by a Frexit campaigner, piling more pressure on President Macron and for France to follow the UK out of the EU.
One person tweeted: “How do you explain, @CBeaune, that the States which do not transfer sovereignty to a supranational entity are doing better than the EU Member States?
“And you are using the correct verb: ‘believe’.
Last week, Mr Beaune warned the EU could punish vaccine maker AstraZeneca if the firm was found to have prioritised its contract to deliver jabs to Britain over the bloc.
Last week, France’s Europe minister suggested the drugmaker could face “penalties and sanctions” if European-made doses of the Oxford jab were shipped to the UK.
He said: “These are serious accusations, so it is not done lightly.
“I am not saying that there is a problem but if there is a problem and that we have favoured other destinations, other countries – for example, the UK over us – then we will defend our interests.
“Our contracts need to be respected. Respecting contracts are not moral commitments, they are legal commitments. Penalties or sanctions can be triggered in every contract.”=
The bitter row between the EU and AstraZeneca erupted last month after the firm said it was being forced to slash the number of Covid vaccines shipped to the bloc because of production issues.
This left the European Commission furious, and it planned to enforce an export ban on vaccines to outside the bloc which threatened to impose a hard border on the island of Ireland.
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EU chief Ursula von der Leyen was quickly forced into an embarrassing U-turn after the controversial move provoked fury in Dublin, Belfast and London.
Speaking in the European Parliament on Wednesday, the Commission President apologised for “mistakes” that led to Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol on Brexit being triggered.
She told MEPs: “The bottom line is that mistakes were made and the process leading up to the decision, and I deeply regret that. But in the end we got it right.
“And I can reassure you that my commission will do its utmost to protect the peace in Northern Ireland, just as it has done throughout the entire Brexit process.”
But Ms von der Leyen continued to defend the EU’s disastrous vaccine rollout programme, adding: “We’ve made a choice to not make any shortcuts, when it comes to safety or efficacy.
“We fully defend that choice. There is no compromise possible when it’s a matter of injecting a biologically active substance into an individual who is in good health.”