Brexit: UK residents react to EU amid vaccine row
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The newest hurdle in the EU-UK saga has cropped up as the cut off date for the EU settlement scheme approaches. Thousands of EU nationals have already been refused entry to the UK since January 31, when the end of free movement came into effect. Now, Scotland has urged the Home Office to extend the deadline as thousands of those eligible for settlement status have not applied.
It has caused outrage, with reports suggesting there were “concerns” the need to apply had passed by some of the most vulnerable EU citizens.
A recent poll appeared to smash the hopes of ardent Remainers like Lord Michael Heseltine.
While this may change Britons’ perspective of Brexit, a YouGov poll conducted earlier this year found more people viewed the EU “unfavourably” than favourably in one of the biggest push backs against the bloc to date.
Lord Heseltine, a Tory peer, since 2016 has refused to acknowledge any inkling that Britons have moved on from the result, although he briefly admitted defeat in late 2020.
However, this did not stop him calling for the UK to rejoin the EU.
On the first day in post-Brexit Britain, he said: “The battle starts again.
“With a chapter closed last night, a new chapter opens.
“First of all, it is up to us who believe in a closely-knit relationship with Europe to use the same determination Brexiteers did to disrupt the European partnership.
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“We want it back, and the only logical answer is to argue for that decision.”
Yet the poll, carried out in March amid several attempts by the EU to block vaccine supplies travelling to the UK, appeared to find nationwide sentiment in stark contrast to Lord Heseltine’s statement.
When asked: ‘Do you have a favourable or unfavourable view of the European Union?’, 24 percent of respondents viewed the EU as “somewhat unfavourable,” while 26 percent viewed it as “very unfavourable”.
Alternatively, 24 percent of people said they viewed the EU as “somewhat favourable,” while just 11 percent viewed the bloc as “very favourable”.
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The vaccines fiasco was a significant blow for Remainers who have been steadfast in their argument that the EU is a benign entity.
EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen had threatened to block the export of millions of doses of COVID-19 vaccines from EU-based AstraZeneca production facilities that Britain had already paid for.
It came as the EU’s mass vaccination programme stalled at every hurdle, while the UK’s became one of the best and fastest in the world.
Lord Andrew Adonis, a Labour peer and EU cheerleader who was one of the leading figures of a People’s Vote, wrote on Twitter that Ms von der Leyen looked “increasingly like the Theresa May of Brussels”.
He added: “The vaccine crisis shows an alarming power vacuum & absence of leadership in Europe.”
Former editor of the Financial Times Lionel Barber, who was offered France’s highest honour – the Légion d’honneur – in recognition of the paper’s “positive role in the European debate” under his leadership, accused the European Commission of wanting “to have its cake and eat it.”
Even Stephen Hammond, the Tory MP who was briefly ejected from the party after supporting a bill seeking to block a no-deal Brexit, said people were “baffled about the actions of the EU”.
While the EU has since recovered and made ground on its vaccine roll-out, the chink in its armour could remain.
Meanwhile, in the UK, Britons generally seem happy with the Government’s handling of the pandemic despite the various controversies of Prime Minister Boris Johnson and his Cabinet.
An Ipsos MORI survey in March showed that two-thirds (67 percent) of Britons believed the UK has handled the COVID-19 vaccination program better than governments of countries in the EU.
Two-fifths (40 percent) of Britons believe Brexit has made Britain’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic better – although those who voted to leave the EU in 2016 are significantly more likely to believe the UK’s exit has had a positive effect on how it has handled the pandemic.
These sentiments may have changed given the recent revelations by Dominic Cummings and his accusations against Mr Johnson and the Government about lockdown and its early strategy failures.
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