Published: Sat, January 30, 2021
Medical | By

European Union backtracks on restrictions on COVID vaccine export to Northern Ireland

European Union backtracks on restrictions on COVID vaccine export to Northern Ireland

"Today, the European Commission has adopted an implementing regulation making the export of certain products subject to an export authorization", trade chief Valdis Dombrovskis said at a press conference.

"I think that's been recognised and it is welcome because it brought an unnecessary political crisis to the situation on the Brexit on the Northern Ireland side that wasn't necessary when we should all be fighting to make sure we can tackle this pandemic together".

It comes after controversy over a row with vaccine maker AstraZeneca amid delays in the delivery of doses to the 27 members of the bloc.

"We've been asking the PM to deal with the flow problems and indeed, since 1 January, we've been trying to manage along with the Government the many, many difficulties that have arisen between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and there are actions he could take immediately", she said.

"The Commission will ensure that the Ireland / Northern Ireland Protocol is unaffected", the EU Commissioner said in a statement late Friday.

"By triggering Article 16 in this manner, the European Union has once again shown it is prepared to use Northern Ireland when it suits their interests but in the most despicable manner - over the provision of a vaccine which is created to save lives".

The Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney said "lessons should be learned" over the controversy, as the Protocol "is not something to be tampered with lightly".

The EU has moved to prevent Northern Ireland from being used as a back door to funnel coronavirus vaccine from the bloc into the rest of the UK.

Amid a dispute with Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and British leader Boris Johnson had an unexpected phone call, during which the United Kingdom prime minister "expressed his grave concerns about the potential impact which the steps the EU has taken today on vaccine exports could have", a statement from the British government read.


A Downing Street statement added: "The UK has legally-binding agreements with vaccine suppliers and it would not expect the European Union, as a friend and ally, to do anything to disrupt the fulfilment of these contracts".

Minister Byrne said: "Clearly a misstep was made in relation to the Northern Ireland Protocol but that was very quickly rectified".

"And I believe that we must face this crisis with responsibility, certainly not with the spirit of oneupmanship or unhealthy competition", he added.

The move comes after drug maker AstraZeneca notified the European Union last week its initial vaccine shipments will be less than half the quantity promised.

The bloc could block the export of a vaccine if it determined that this could undermine the EU's own supplies.

Officials say manufacturers shipping to non-EU markets will be required to request export authorization.

The UK was not named among countries exempted from the new measures.

That came after the EU released a redacted version of its contract with AstraZeneca, while announcing a mechanism that could allow it to deny the export of vaccines made on European soil.

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