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The UK’s Hard Brexit Choices Have Arrived

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government recently spelled out how Britain will use its supposed freedom outside the European Union. But the country faces a growing number of tough choices that Johnson will not be able to avoid for much longer.

LONDON – Since the United Kingdom left the European Union, relations with its continental neighbors have gone from bad to worse. On both sides, a toxic blend of distrust and nationalism increasingly infuses almost every contentious issue.

On the EU side, both the European Commission and several member states have woefully mishandled the rollout of the bloc’s COVID-19 vaccination program. The EU has directed its threats of vaccine protectionism principally at the UK, whose vaccination campaign has so far gone well, while individual European governments have damagingly criticized the efficacy of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine.

The complaints about the vaccine, developed by world-renowned experts at the University of Oxford, fly in the face of objective scientific evidence, thus inevitably raising suspicions of anti-British sentiment. Moreover, they have made some Europeans reluctant to receive the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and stirred up anti-vaccine sentiment more generally, thereby all but guaranteeing further avoidable COVID-19 deaths. Many European governments took too long to come to their senses and restart their rollout of the vaccine with the full backing of health regulators.

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