France accuses UK of ‘blackmail’ over vax exports

France has accused the UK of “blackmail” over its handling of the coronavirus vaccine exports, amid continuing tensions over supply chains.

Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian was asked whether the EU had been “scammed” by sending millions of doses to the UK while its own rollout stuttered, the BBC reported.

“We need to build a co-operative relationship,” he told France Info radio. “But we cannot deal this way.”

France has called for the EU to implement tougher export controls.

Vaccine rollouts have started sluggishly across the bloc, and the EU has blamed pharmaceutical companies – primarily AstraZeneca – for not delivering its promised doses. AstraZeneca has denied that it is failing to honour its contract.

The EU is expecting to receive about 30 million AstraZeneca doses by the end of March, less than a third of what it was hoping for.

The UK’s vaccination drive, meanwhile, has so far been more successful than that of the EU’s 27 member states.

On Thursday, following a virtual summit where EU leaders discussed vaccine supplies, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the bloc was the “region that exports most vaccines worldwide” and invited other countries to “match our openness”.

She also said AstraZeneca must “catch up” on its deliveries to the EU before exporting doses elsewhere.