Boris Johnson has tonight claimed “internationalism failed us” during Covid-19 as he takes shots at the EU for its reliance on Russian gas and its threats to ban vaccine exports earlier this year.
The Prime Minister said at the Lord Mayor of London’s banquet in Guildhall that the UK was a “victim” of “the crazy decisions of some countries to try to stop the export of vaccines to others”, referring to a row with the EU in January.
Referring to the planned Nord Stream 2 gas pipeline from Russia to Germany, Johnson said he hoped “our friends may recognise that a choice is shortly coming between mainlining ever more Russian hydrocarbons … and sticking up for Ukraine and championing the cause of peace and stability”.
The speech comes as the UK is in the middle of a tense stand-off with the EU over the status of Northern Ireland post-Brexit and with France over a range of issues, including the record levels of migrants making illegal channel crossings from Calais.
Downing Street’s relationship with the EU post-Brexit has not improved, with successive rows stoked by each side over a number of issues.
The EU threatened to to ban vaccine exports to the UK in January and temporarily suspended the post-Brexit treaty’s Northern Ireland Protocol, sparking international outrage.
Johnson said in his speech that the Cop26 climate summit in Glasgow – which failed to result in an agreement to end the use of coal – showed global cooperation was possible, before taking a shot at Brussels.
He said: “If Glasgow has been on the whole a success, if we have made important progress, then it is worth pausing and asking ourselves why? What has changed since Madrid and Katowice and Paris and Copenhagen?
“And you can see how all sorts of things have come together in the minds of the leaders of the world. There is the data about what is actually happening: the storms, the floods, the fires, the swarms of locusts. There is the ever growing clamour from their electorates .
“Perhaps we were also helped in Glasgow by a collective sense of embarrassment at the way internationalism failed us during Covid – the squabbles over PPE, the crazy decisions of some countries to try to stop the export of vaccines to others, something we were victims of at the start of this year.”
The speech also comes as warnings abound that Russia is preparing for military action, after amassing nearly 100,000 troops at the Ukrainian border.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has also been blamed by foreign secretary Liz Truss for a migrant crisis in Belarus.
Migrants escaping Afghanistan been encouraged to come to Belarus by its government, which is largely propped up by Russia, with promises of an easy entrance into the EU through Poland.
This has led to a bottleneck of migrants at the border, with Poland authorities not letting the asylum seekers through.
“When we say that we support the sovereignty and integrity of Ukraine that is not because we want to be adversarial to Russia, or that we want in some way strategically to encircle or undermine that great country,” Johnson said.
“And never let it be forgotten, in this season of remembrance, that it was Russian blood that enabled us to defeat Nazism. It is because we have a commitment to democracy and freedom that is shared now across the vast mass of the European continent.
“And when our Polish friends asked for our help to deal with a contrived crisis on their border with Belarus, we were quick to respond.
“And we hope that our friends may recognise that a choice is shortly coming between mainlining ever more Russian hydrocarbons in giant new pipelines and sticking up for Ukraine and championing the cause of peace and stability, let me put it that way.”