EU reverses plan to limit vaccine exports by Irish border | Coronavirus pandemic Information
The European Union abruptly reversed a plan of emergency Brexit action to prevent COVID-19 vaccines from being shipped across the Irish border into the UK after sending shock waves across Northern Ireland, London and Dublin.
In a steep escalation in the EU’s fight to secure vaccine supplies, Brussels announced that it would trigger clauses in the Northern Irish Protocol to prevent vaccines from crossing the open border between EU member Ireland and the UK-led province.
After an outcry in London, Belfast and Dublin, the EU issued a statement just before midnight to ensure that the Northern Ireland Protocol, which is supposed to keep the border open, is not compromised.
However, she warned that if vaccines and active substances were relocated to third countries and from the bloc, “all the instruments at her disposal” would be used.
Ireland said the change in EU opinion was welcome but lessons should be learned.
“The protocol is not easy to manipulate, it is an essential, hard-won compromise that protects peace and trade for many,” said Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney on Twitter.
The EU’s original plan was to prevent the open border between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland from acting as a back door for the supply of vaccines to the UK.
The public turnaround followed a round of frantic calls when British Prime Minister Boris Johnson shared his “grave concerns” with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen while Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin spoke to both Johnson and the EU leader about one Find solution.
Northern Irish trade unionists cited the EU’s original plan as an act of hostility.
In a social media post on Friday, von der Leyen said she spoke to Johnson: “We have agreed on the principle that there should be no restrictions on the export of vaccines by companies that comply with contractual obligations.”
The fastest mass vaccination campaign in history is creating tensions around the world as major powers buy up doses in bulk while poorer nations try to navigate a financial and diplomatic minefield to collect the remaining supplies.
The EU, whose member states are way behind Israel, the UK and the United States in introducing vaccines, is looking to supply, just as the West’s largest drug makers are slowing shipments to the bloc due to production problems [Bernat Armangue/AP]The EU, whose member states are well behind Israel, Britain and the United States in adopting vaccines, is looking to supply, just as the West’s largest drug makers are slowing shipments to the bloc due to manufacturing problems.
The British-Swedish drug maker AstraZeneca has gotten into the crosshairs after it announced last week that it would not ship its promised vaccines to the EU until March due to production problems in Belgium.
This angered Brussels, who wanted to know why the company can’t distract supplies from its UK locations, which have produced millions of shots for UK citizens.
The UK has its own domestic supply chain for AstraZeneca, including the launch in Northern Ireland. However, it imports Pfizer’s vaccine from a factory in Belgium.
The European Commission agreed to a broader plan to control exports of vaccines from the bloc, including to the UK, arguing it was necessary to ensure its own supplies.
However, the EU’s failed attempt to apply the Northern Ireland Protocol sparked anger in the province.
Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster described it as “an incredible act of hostility”.
Maintaining the delicate peace in Northern Ireland without Britain being able to gain access to EU markets across the 499 km land border between Great Britain and Ireland was one of the toughest issues in the Brexit divorce talks.
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