Grant Shapps said the import of the coronavirus vaccine batches from Belgium will not be affected by a no-deal Brexit. The UK Government confirmed this week they purchased millions of COVID-19 jabs, some of which are produced in the European Union member state. Asked whether the vaccine could be caught in potential “Brexit chaos” at the border past January 2021, the Transport Secretary said: “In terms of the transition period, we’ve been doing an extraordinary amount of work to make sure that our borders can flow, that it is undisrupted as possible.
“We need to see because we don’t have a final deal with the EU so we don’t know whether we are going to leave on the so-called Australia or Canadian-style departure.
“Either way, what I can tell you is, I’ve looked at the facilities and places like Kent, where there is a massive facility being created there to ensure that lorries can come and go, that we will be prepared for whatever comes.
“I have absolutely no concern whatsoever that the vaccines that we’ve purchased will make it through.”
Mr Shapps also took a subtle swipe at the European Union after the bloc warned Britain’s failure to join its vaccine procurement system would leave the UK without jabs.
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The Conservative frontbencher said: “We’ve seen this week this extraordinary breakthrough with the Pfizer breakthrough. We’re hoping to see similar things with the AstraZeneca one.
“I remember back in the early summer being told that because we hadn’t signed up to the EU programme to buy these vaccines, we’d somehow be left behind.
“Not at all, what’s actually happened is we got in front of the queue. We made purchases of a number of half a dozen different vaccines and made sure we are able to be amongst the first to roll these out whilst it turns out the other people didn’t buy them.
“That’s a practical example of how our mission to ensure this country can be independent, make our own laws and look after ourselves is actually working in reality.”
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Brexit negotiations are still ongoing, with EU negotiator Michel Barnier travelling to the UK this week in a bid to secure an agreement before the EU Summit in Brussels next week.
Both sides have reiterated their commitment to striking a deal but have admitted there still are significant differences on issues including fisheries, governance and state aid.
The departure of key Brexiteer adviser Dominic Cummings from Downing Street has ignited fears Boris Johnson may soon agree to a so-called Brexit in Name Only (Brino).
Former Brexit Party MEP Martin Daubney wrote on Twitter: “All of my political WAGs are alight with #cummmings going as a warning sign we are heading for a disastrous, watered-down Brexit – the dreaded BRINO.”
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Pro-Brexit MP John Redwood called on the Prime Minister to avoid making additional compromises as he insisted it is time for the UK to “break free” from the European Union.
Mr Redwood said: “The UK runs a large balance of trade deficit with the EU so a free trade agreement helps them more than us.
“Good of the UK to keep to the promise of a relationship based on a free trade deal. No need to make any compromises on laws, fish or ECJ powers. We want to be independent.
“The EU single market has damaged our economy, crippling us with a huge trade deficit whilst we have a surplus with the rest of the world.
“They took our fish, cut our food production and even pushed us into importing electricity. Time to break free and do better.”