Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said Thursday (25 March) that London and Brussels could agree a deal on vaccine sharing by the weekend “or soon after” to avoid the imposition of an EU embargo.
But he said that if Brussels decides to block any exports from the Halix plant in the Netherlands to the UK then his government would enforce that.
Speaking to reporters after a video summit of the 27 EU leaders, Rutte said that he hoped the European Commission would not need to block exports to Britain.
“The Dutch authorities will follow that decision by the Commission without itself having a view on that,” he said, adding that he had explained this to his British counterpart Boris Johnson.
“I explained to him that this is not how this works in Europe and that this is not a bilateral decision between us and the UK,” Rutte said.
The Dutch leader insisted he could not predict what would happen if AstraZeneca requested permission to export from the plant to Britain.
But he added: “Luckily at least the two are talking and it seems, I think, on Saturday or soon after they could come to an agreement.
“And that would be very helpful, because we are friends, the UK and the rest of Europe, and we need each other.”
UK-based drugs giant AstraZeneca is on course to deliver only 30 million of a contracted 120 million doses of its vaccine to Europe by the end of this month.
This has enraged EU leaders, and European Commission president has threatened to block any exports by the firm out of the bloc until it makes up its shortfall.
Britain, however, regards the Halix plant in the Netherlands as part of its own supply chain.
Officials from both sides are attempting to negotiate a deal that would head off such a step, which could have knock-on effects for EU supplies.