The ex-prime minister was said to be “enraged” after the EU threatened to prevent doses of a Covid vaccine from entering the UK
Former UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson asked military advisers to prepare plans to raid a Dutch Covid-19 vaccine plant to retrieve 5 million AstraZeneca doses, the Daily Mail has claimed.
Johnson was “enraged” by a diplomatic spat with the EU after Brussels threatened to prevent doses of the vaccine from being sent to the UK from the plant in March 2021, the outlet reported on Sunday, citing anonymous sources.
At the time, the EU was embroiled in a dispute with the Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical company over the rollout of the vaccine. AstraZeneca had said production issues meant it could only deliver about one-quarter of the planned stock to the EU, and had refused to divert supplies from its factories in the UK.
This prompted Brussels to threaten to ban exports of the vaccine from its own territory, which European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen claimed was necessary to ensure “Europe gets its fair share.”
Johnson, who had pledged that priority groups in the UK would be fully vaccinated by mid-April 2021, subsequently asked military advisers to prepare plans to forcefully retrieve the vaccine doses from the plant in Leiden, the Daily Mail reported.
“The PM was enraged,” the diplomatic source told the newspaper. “He ordered officials to look at all options for responding, and that did include asking the security services to look at whether there were any options for physically going and taking the vaccines from the Netherlands and bringing them here.”
A second source said that the EU, whose actions they described as “Trumpian,” could not “accept the fact that we had negotiated a better deal with AstraZeneca… They (the vaccines) were effectively stolen.”
However, the idea was abandoned after Johnson was advised that conducting a military-style operation to seize the vaccines would seriously undermine relations with the EU. It would also threaten the supply of future vaccine doses from elsewhere in the bloc, the Daily Mail said.
Johnson is expected to reference the EU row when he gives evidence to a UK Covid inquiry on Wednesday. It was previously reported by The Times that the former premier will admit he “unquestionably made mistakes” in his leadership throughout the pandemic. However, he is also set to claim that his actions saved hundreds of thousands of lives.