It is a rant worthy of Nigel Farage in his pomp. One of the leading figures within the European Parliament has launched a blistering tirade against the Commission's ineptitude in securing vaccines. The EU is a world leader in making inoculations, he points out. And yet there is a shortage of supply in every country within the Union. The measures taken to fix that so far have been ‘symbolic,’ ‘insufficient’ and sometimes even ‘counterproductive’. Worse, there has been a shocking lack of accountability, with no one held responsible for the failure. The critic? None other than the arch federalist, scourge of Brexiteers, and hero of Lib Dem party conferences, Guy Verhofstadt.
In a video released over Facebook and Twitter, the former Belgium Prime Minister, whose passion for full political and economic union knows no limits, expertly skewers the Commission's power-grab over healthcare policy, its ham-fisted contracts with the drugs companies, and the catastrophic way it tried to cover up its mistakes by blaming everyone else.
— Guy Verhofstadt (@guyverhofstadt) February 13, 2021
Pro-Europeans should be the first to be critical when things go wrong. On vaccines, they certainly have…My take on @vonderleyen’s #vaccine fiasco and how to move forward and fix it 👇🏻 pic.twitter.com/NiP0TQ3Xxl
It is a blistering performance, and in truth Verhofstadt is to be commended for his intellectual honesty. The scale of the disaster is becoming more and more painfully apparent with every day that passes. As the UK strides past the 15 million first doses mark, with the most vulnerable groups to Covid-19 now at least partially protected; as compelling evidence starts to emerge from Israel about how rapid vaccination cuts deaths, hospitalisations, and infections; and as even tiny states such as Serbia overtake Germany and France, it is becoming clearer and clearer how badly the EU has mismanaged its programme. We are not yet at the stage where we can start calculating how many lives that has cost, but that moment is not far away. The figures will be sobering.
Verhofstadt makes the point that anyone who loves the EU, as he does, has to be brutally honest about its failings. And that is, of course, more than fair, It is surely better than some of the shameful attempts, in France in particular, to argue that it is only second doses that count (if the UK had gone with that strategy instead of prioritising first doses it would still be way ahead of the rest of Europe). Or to say that the UK is taking ‘risks’ with vaccines (in fact the longer interval between first and second doses is now in line with WHO guidelines, and we have authorised exactly the same vaccines as the European Medicines Agency – just more quickly).
True, Verhofstadt has not quite seen the light yet, and worked out that the vaccine catastrophe was merely the latest example of the EU’s failure to deliver, and that bungling mis-management is built into a political system that lacks any form of proper accountability to its electorate. But who knows, maybe it is only a matter of time? Until then, it is surely a telling measure of the scale of the disaster that even the most enthusiastic federalists are turning on the EU.