Boris Johnson 'asked spies to look into raiding Dutch Covid vaccine plant after EU blocked export'

4 December 2023, 05:45 | Updated: 4 December 2023, 06:03

Boris Johnson asked the security services to consider military options for getting vaccines out of the EU
Boris Johnson asked the security services to consider military options for getting vaccines out of the EU. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

Boris Johnson asked spies to investigate options for raiding a Dutch Covid vaccine factory after the EU threatened to block export of Britain's doses.

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The then-prime minister was furious when Brussels essentially stopped five million AstraZeneca jabs from being sent to the UK in March 2021, as the bloc struggled to get its own rollout going.

He even asked the security services to evaluate the "military options" for getting them out of the site in Leiden.

But diplomats told him it would damage relations and threaten the supply of vaccines from other parts of the EU.

Read more: Boris Johnson 'to apologise at Covid Inquiry and admit mistakes' in next week's showdown

The Mail said Mr Johnson will "allude" to this request during his appearance at the Covid Inquiry this week.

A source told the paper: "The EU had basically sequestered five million doses of our vaccine.

"Of course the PM was enraged – they were putting British lives at risk to make a political point and distract from their own failings.

Boris Johnson has asked spies to consider military options for getting the vaccines
Boris Johnson has asked spies to consider military options for getting the vaccines. Picture: Alamy

"He ordered officials to look at all options for responding, and that did include asking the security services to look at whether there were any options for physically going and taking the vaccines from the Netherlands and bringing them here."

The EU was upset with AstraZeneca as the pharma giant said it could only deliver a quarter of his planned batch to the EU due to production problems.

It decided against sending doses from the UK so Ursula von der Leyen, the European Commission president, intervened and threatened to block the five million doses from being exported to Britain.

Read more: Harry and Meghan urged to support Charles and royals amid Archie racism row, as Boris Johnson weighs in

A second source said the EU could "not accept" the UK had negotiated a better deal with AstraZeneca - and their "aggressive" actions meant the spy plan did not seem so "outlandish".

"Boris was infuriated, as you would expect, and he wanted to look at every avenue for responding. It went well beyond trade retaliation; it was diplomatic, security, everything," they said.

Boris Johnson weighed up using spies to raid the Dutch factory
Boris Johnson weighed up using spies to raid the Dutch factory. Picture: Alamy

"He felt he was fighting for British lives and at one point he did ask whether there were military options for just going and getting these vaccines.

"Obviously that would have had major repercussions, not least in terms of other vaccine supplies that were being manufactured in the EU. I don't know how far the idea got."

Mr Johnson's spokesperson did not comment on their claims but was "looking forward to assisting the inquiry".

He is expected to reveal a blazing row he had with Emmanuel Macron, who he believed was encouraging the EU, and Ms von der Leyen.

He reportedly only decided against hitting back when he was told a bigger batch of Pfizer, which was being made in other parts of the EU, could be blocked.

Ultimately, the UK managed to replace the doses with batches from India.

Mr Johnson is due to give evidence - which will include an apology for his mistakes - on Wednesday and Thursday.

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