Diplomatic sources said the former prime minister was ‘enraged’ after the EU effectively blocked the export of five million doses of the AstraZeneca jab at the height of the vaccine rollout in March 2021.
At one point Mr Johnson asked the security services to investigate ‘military options’ for retrieving the doses from the plant in Leiden, in the Netherlands.
The idea was only abandoned after diplomats warned it would scupper relations – and jeopardise the supply of vaccines from plants elsewhere in the EU.
Mr Johnson will allude to the extraordinary episode when he appears before the Covid Inquiry this week. His written evidence is expected to underline his frustration at the actions of the EU, which was struggling with its own vaccine rollout at the time.
Boris Johnson asked the security services to draw up plans to raid a Dutch Covid vaccine factory after the EU ‘stole’ millions of doses destined for Britain, it has been claimed
Two diplomatic sources told the Mail that, behind the scenes, Mr Johnson was so angry about the interference from Brussels that he considered ordering a covert raid to seize the vaccines which had been paid for by the UK Government.
One source said: ‘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.
‘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.’
A second source said the EU’s ‘Trumpian’ actions had ‘set back relations with Brussels for at least a year’.
The source added: ‘The EU could not accept the fact that we had negotiated a better deal with AstraZeneca and so they essentially impounded these vaccines in the Netherlands. They were effectively stolen; it was Trumpian.
‘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.
‘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.
The former PM’s written evidence is expected to underline his frustration at the actions of the EU, which was struggling with its own vaccine rollout at the time (File Photo)
‘But at that point the EU’s actions were so aggressive that it did not seem such an outlandish idea.’
A spokesman for Mr Johnson declined to comment on the claims, saying only that he was ‘looking forward to assisting the inquiry with its important work’ next week.
But a senior ally of the former PM acknowledged he had been ‘infuriated’ by the actions of a supposed ally.
‘Boris was always prepared to use whatever means necessary to ensure that the UK got the vaccines it needed and had rightly obtained,’ the friend said.
‘He had no interest in playing the EU’s political games and the petty politics some displayed over this issue were absolutely infuriating.’
Mr Johnson asked the security services to investigate ‘military options’ for retrieving the doses from the Dutch AstraZeneca vaccine plant in Leiden, in the Netherlands (pictured)
The diplomatic crisis was triggered when the European Commission threatened to block the export to the UK of five million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine from a ‘finishing plant’ run by the Dutch firm Halix in March 2021.
At the time, Brussels was in dispute with the Anglo-Swedish biotech giant, which had warned production problems meant it could only deliver a quarter of planned supplies to the EU. AstraZeneca refused to divert supplies from UK plants and Brussels responded by threatening to ban exports from its own territory.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the measure was about ‘making sure that Europe gets its fair share’.
Mr Johnson was only dissuaded from retaliatory action after officials warned it could jeopardise the supply of an even larger batch of Pfizer vaccines being manufactured elsewhere in the EU. British officials were able to replace most of the Dutch vaccines with supplies from India, allowing the rollout in the UK to continue.
European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said the measure was about ‘making sure that Europe gets its fair share’
In his evidence this week, Mr Johnson is also expected to reference a separate episode in which the Commission threatened to impose border controls on the island of Ireland to prevent vaccines produced in the EU being sent to Northern Ireland.
The EU’s approach led to what sources describe as a ‘breakdown’ in relations. Mr Johnson is said to have had a ‘furious’ call with French president Emmanuel Macron, who was suspected of encouraging the EU’s hardline stance, and an ‘even worse’ one with Ms Von der Leyen.
In his evidence, Mr Johnson will cite the UK’s vaccine rollout programme as evidence that the British Government ‘got the big calls right’ during the pandemic.
The UK was the first country in the world to license a Covid vaccine, and had one of the fastest rollouts. The former PM is expected to apologise for mistakes made by the Government during the pandemic but stress that in many areas the UK did well, such as opening up society rapidly after the final lockdown.
Among other things, he will acknowledge the huge pain caused by the shocking death toll, but point out that the UK ended up ‘in the middle of the pack’ for excess death rates.