July 3, 2020 / 3:24 PM / a month ago

Britain mulls joining EU's coronavirus vaccine scheme

FILE PHOTO: Small bottles labeled with a "Vaccine COVID-19" sticker and a medical syringe are seen in this illustration taken taken April 10, 2020. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic/Illustration/File Photo

LONDON/BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Britain is discussing with the European Union whether it will join a plan by the bloc to secure supplies of potential vaccines against COVID-19, officials in London and Brussels said on Friday.

The UK-EU talks, first reported by the Financial Times, represent a test of the cooperation required to tackle international emergencies after Brexit.

The EU is planning to spend around 2 billion euros (1.80 billion pounds) on the advance purchase of vaccines in testing, on behalf of the 27 EU states.

European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has said she is trying to convince “a significant number” of world leaders to join forces and buy vaccines up front together, as competition for a vaccine could otherwise raise the cost for everyone.

“We have reached out to the UK, inviting them to express their interest if they want to participate in the joint EU approach established by the vaccine strategy,” a Commission spokesperson said.

“Discussions are now ongoing with the UK.”

Asked about the FT report, a British government spokesman confirmed that it was under consideration but did not say a decision had been taken.

“Work is ongoing to determine whether and how the UK participates in the EU Vaccines Strategy,” he said in a statement.

London is assessing whether the advantages of the European bloc’s bargaining power to strike deals with international drugs companies outweigh the broader political desire to sever ties with Brussels, the FT report said, citing UK officials.

Reporting by Josephine Mason and Alistair Smout in London and Marine Strauss in Brussels; Editing by Kevin Liffey

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