The European Union swiftly overturned a decision citing an emergency Brexit provision that could have restricted the export of COVID-19 vaccines across the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. Sean Gallup / AP Hide caption
Sean Gallup / AP
Sean Gallup / AP
The European Union overturned a brief decision to restrict the export of COVID-19 vaccines across the border from Ireland to Northern Ireland.
European Vaccination campaigns had problems as vaccine supplies on the continent have run out. The decision to invoke an emergency protocol of the Brexit deal was seen as an attempt to prevent supplies to the EU from entering the UK.
But within hours of the ruling that could have controlled the border between the EU member, the Republic of Ireland and British-controlled Northern Ireland, Irish and British officials condemned the move.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he had “serious concerns” while Northern Ireland’s First Secretary Arlene Foster called it “An incredible act of hostility.”
Johnson and Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin each quickly spoke with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Von der Leyen then wrote that she and Johnson “have agreed on the principle that there should be no restrictions on the export of vaccines by companies that meet their contractual obligations.”
The EU Commission wrote that it would not trigger the protocol but warned: “Should the transit of vaccines and active substances to third countries be misused to circumvent the effects of the authorization system, the EU will consider using all the instruments at its disposal.”
“They realized they made a mistake and I think we can now focus on making sure our vaccination program is successful,” said Michael Gove, a UK Cabinet Secretary. said Sky News.
Irish officials also welcomed the reversal.
Prime Minister Martin called it “A positive development given the many challenges we face in the fight against COVID-19.”
“Protocol is not easy to manipulate, it is an essential, hard-won compromise that protects peace and trade for many,” said the Irish Foreign Secretary Simon Coveney tweeted.
The politically sensitive border between Ireland and Northern Ireland was an important sticking point in the Brexit negotiations between Great Britain and the EU.
Under the Brexit deal, the border remained open, but an emergency provision allows the UK or the EU to unilaterally suspend parts of the deal.