Britain’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson rejected on Wednesday (March 10) an assertion by European Council President Charles Michel that Britain had banned exports of COVID-19 vaccines, saying his government opposed vaccine nationalism in all its forms.
Addressing parliament during the weekly Prime Minister’s Questions session, Johnson used his introductory comments to “correct” Michel’s suggestion and asked the chamber to join him in rejecting it.
“We have not blocked the export of any single COVID-19 vaccine or vaccine components,” Johnson said, adding that the UK rejected “vaccine nationalism in all its forms.”
A senior EU diplomat in London was summoned to the British foreign ministry on Wednesday as the two sides traded barbs over the vaccines, the latest in a series of disputes that bode ill for post-Brexit cooperation.
Johnson also experienced a tense exchange with opposition Labour Party leader Keir Starmer over much criticised government plans to increase NHS nurses’ pay by just 1%.
Following the government’s announcement of the move on March 3, Johnson and finance minister Rishi Sunak have come under fire from opposition lawmakers and their own backbenchers for the below inflation rise.
While Johnson said a public sector pay review body would be looking into nurses’ remuneration as an “exceptional” case, he did not concur with Starmer’s argument that the rise represented a real-terms pay cut.
Recent polling has found significant public opposition to the government’s policy in light of the pressures experienced by National Health Service (NHS) workers throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
An Opinium poll found 58% of the governing Conservative Party’s own voters believe the increase is too low.