Anyone wondering whether Great Britain's exit from the European Union was wise might find an answer by checking out the COVID-19 vaccination statistics available at OurWorldinData.org.
The site reports that as of the beginning of March, the United Kingdom had administered an impressive 31 doses of vaccine for every 100 people, while the European Union is lagging far behind at a mere 7.6 doses for every 100 people.
For comparison's sake, Israel was at about 95 doses for every 100 people, and the United States was at about 23 doses. The big E.U. countries — France, Germany, Italy, Poland — are all in the six to nine dose for each 100 people range.
If you were a British voter, where would you rather be? Back with the European Union waiting for scarce vaccine doses? Or up with the United States and Israel, rapidly moving toward a more normal, post-vaccine world? As a Financial Times article put it, "Britons will get their lives back several months before Europeans. And the UK achieved this by going solo…. To quote that patriotic British writer Rudyard Kipling: 'He travels the fastest who travels alone.'"
Even The New York Times, no Brexit cheerleader, observed in a recent news story: "Particularly galling to many Europeans is the sight of a former E.U. member, Britain, forging ahead with its vaccination and reopening plans, while E.U. societies remain under lockdown amid a new surge of dangerous variants, their economies sinking deeper into recession."
People will find explanations for the different paces to meet their prior beliefs. Some credit Britain's National Health Service. A former prime minister, Tony Blair, was recently quoted by Politico as insisting that Great Britain might have speedily vaccinated its population even if it hadn't left the European Union.
"We could have done this inside Europe," Blair said. "We didn't need to leave Europe in order to have control of our own destiny and our vaccines."
That counterfactual speculation is hard to prove or disprove. What is indisputably true, though, is that countries that are unapologetic about putting their own national interest first have been winning the vaccine race against those that have emphasized a more globalist, cooperative approach.
It's one thing to bow to Brussels bureaucrats when the stakes are relatively low. But when it's a matter of life or death — or even a couple more months stuck at home — people start to become impatient. The Maastricht treaty that consolidated the modern European Union is not supposed to be a suicide pact.
If the European Union's vaccine desperation is "galling" to its inhabitants, it's amusing to longtime Euroskeptics, especially as some EU member states are scrambling for vaccination help by looking outside Europe.
Reuters reports that Austria and Denmark have decided to work with Israel on vaccines. Austria's chancellor Sebastian Kurz, is quoted by Reuters as saying that Vienna "should no longer be dependent only on the EU for the production of second-generation vaccines."
Kurz and the Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, are said to be headed to Israel to discuss the vaccine issue. According to Reuters, "When asked whether Denmark and Austria wanted to take unilateral action in obtaining vaccines, Frederiksen said: 'You can call it that.'"
For the most ardent European integrationist, such unilateral moves to put one nation ahead of a neighbor may be hard to justify, either in terms of moral or political philosophy or even practically given cross-border population flows. The Brexit and the moves by Austria and Denmark, though, are reassuring signs that obituaries for European nationalism may have been premature.
At least some European leaders are putting the health of their own citizens ahead of abstract ideals of continental equality.
As for those who warn that such nationalism carries risks of violent conflict — well, that certainly can't be lost on the Israelis. The OurWorldinData chart and the news from London, Vienna and Copenhagen offer an alternative perspective — an unapologetic nationalism that leads not to death or destruction but to good health.
Ira Stoll is author of "JFK, Conservative," and "Samuel Adams: A Life." Read Ira Stoll's Reports — More Here.
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