The bloc’s new ambassador to the UK said the delivery of jabs is “not a sprint”, after the number of inoculations rose sharply in the EU – and amid doubts over future supplies in this country.
“Let’s see where we are at the end of this race, let’s see where we are in September” he said, adding: “We need to be very humble regarding this virus.”
* Rejected calls for major changes to the Northern Ireland Protocol – saying: “The Protocol is not the problem. The problem is Brexit.”
* Said exporters had told him they wanted the UK to drop plans to diverge from EU rules – because it would “create more problems than it will solve”.
* Called for “a qualitative change in the atmosphere” of the relationship – while being encouraged by recent meetings.
* Played down the chances of quick improvements, to recognise professional qualifications for example – saying: “Too many people are jumping to renegotiate an agreement we have just agreed upon.”
* Played down the spat over the UK denying him full diplomatic status – saying he was “confident that we will find a solution that is in line with international practice”.
Although the UK has led Europe in vaccinations, the EU has recently upped its game and expects to double-jab 70 per cent of all adults by the middle of July.
Mr Vale de Almeida also pointed to the threat from new variants, adding: “God knows what will come down the road.”
On the UK’s plans to diverge on standards, the ambassador said: “I’ve been talking to business people, for instance manufacturing, food and drink, agriculture and beyond.
“What I’ve got back is, we don’t seek a profound divergence – because we are so much linked to your market that we understand that too big a divergence will create more problems than it would solve.”
On the controversy over the Protocol – which Mr Johnson branded “absurd”, despite agreeing it – he said: “The Protocol is EU law and British law and it needs to be implemented.”
Stressing “preservation of the single market” was crucial, the ambassador said: “We also expect, on the British side. that the commitments made will be fully implemented.”
If the UK agreed to remain “aligned” with EU rules then “the problem would be solved” – but he was “not sure” the British government agreed.
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