Monday 1 February 2021 1:49 pm

After Brexit border backdown, the EU in new push with Astrazeneca to get more vaccine deliveries

Talks between Astrazeneca and the European Commission will continue, despite strains, so that the bloc can recieve more of the pharmaceutical’s Covid-19 vaccine before the end of March.

The two were at odds last week after Astrazeneca slashed the number of doses it said it could deliver in the first quarter, leading to a diplomatic stand-off between the EU and the UK.

Read more: Von der Leyen under pressure to resign as EU Commission President over vaccine debacle

On Sunday, the Commission president Ursula von der Leyen said Astrazeneca had raised its target of supplies to the EU to 40m doses from 31m until the end of March, after a large cut last week.

Its original commitment was of at least 80m doses, and possibly up to 120m in the first quarter, Reuters reported last week.

The offer by AstraZeneca was an improvement but “it is definitely not the amount which we expect to receive until the end of the first quarter, so of course discussions will continue,” the spokesman told a news conference.

Read more: EU rows back on Irish border vaccine controls

The EU was forced into a screeching U-turn on Friday night and had to amend its controversial measures seeking to limit exports to Northern Ireland.

The bloc had earlier moved to restrict exports of vaccines into Northern Ireland by overriding parts of the Brexit deal, sparking widespread anger from politicians in Belfast, after an escalation in the vaccine row.

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster described the move as “an incredible act of hostility” by the EU to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Irish Protocol, which allows Britain or the EU to take unilateral action if there is an unexpected negative effect arising from the agreement.

Read more: EU says AstraZeneca contract contains ‘binding orders’ as vaccine row intensifies

Just hours after the announcement, the EU clarified it will “ensure that the Ireland/North Ireland Protocol is unaffected”.

The diplomatic stand-off led to calls for von der Leyen to resign.