We have known for a long time that the European Union is a bully. It bullied Greece during the financial crisis which started in 2009, and from the moment the British people voted to leave the bloc, it tried to bully us into submission.
But never until now have we seen the increasingly tyrannical nature of the EU – and in particular the European Commission in Brussels – quite so starkly.
It is behaving in a manner that is both disgraceful and more than slightly mad. The Eurocrats really have lost the plot.
The Commission’s introduction of rules yesterday that will allow it to prevent life-saving jabs getting into Britain – even though they have been ordered and paid for – is a shamelessly aggressive act.
As EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen insists that Britain must give up tens of millions of its Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines, it’s clear that we have never seen the increasingly tyrannical nature of the bloc quite so starkly
At the same time, Brussels dramatically invoked Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
This move has effectively removed the province from the EU Customs area, in contravention of an agreement made with the UK.
Arlene Foster, Northern Ireland’s First Minister, rightly called this ‘an incredible act of hostility’.
As the EU fights for Oxford vaccines, President Emmanuel Macron of France continues to question whether they are effective for those over 65
So desperate is the EU to ensure vaccines do not leave its territory and find their way into Britain, it is prepared to impose a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic.
A hard border, it must be said, which it resisted tooth and nail during negotiations with the Government.
There is even talk of the Commission invoking powers which would enable it to seize intellectual property and data from pharmaceutical companies.
The move would be targeted in particular at the Anglo-Swedish giant AstraZeneca, which Brussels outrageously accuses of withholding vaccines it has ordered.
Where is Germany’s Angela Merkel in all this? Can she and other grown-up leaders of EU countries relish the spectacle of the flat-footed, overbearing and unelected Commission poisoning relations with an ally? Is this really the Europe they want?
The EU, which is supposed to be a union of liberal democracies friendly to Britain, is acting as though it were an authoritarian state such as Russia or China, with a deeply antagonistic mindset towards a former member.
The truth is that Brussels is not only a bully. It is an incompetent one.
Whereas Britain ordered hundreds of millions of vaccines from several different sources in good time, the Commission was slow, blundering and inept.
Meanwhile, brilliant researchers at Oxford University, supported by AstraZeneca, came up with the goods.
Now the Commission is trying to punish this country for what are actually its own multiple errors.
It won’t work, not least because AstraZeneca has two plants in this country producing vaccines.
They will go to the British Government first for the simple reason that it signed an agreement three months before the EU did.
Arlene Foster described the EU’s decision to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol as ‘an incredible act of hostility’
One amusing sub-plot of this crazy story is that while the President of the Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, insists that Britain must give up tens of millions of its Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccines, President Emmanuel Macron of France continues to question whether they are effective for those over 65.
Where is Germany’s Angela Merkel in all this?
Can she and other grown-up leaders of EU countries relish the spectacle of the flat-footed, overbearing and unelected Commission poisoning relations with an ally? Is this really the Europe they want?
Perhaps even once-intransigent Remainers will now see the point of our leaving the EU.
More than ever before, we should be relieved and grateful to have left this increasingly malign madhouse.