Ireland has not been asked by the European Commission about the intention to restrict exports of vaccines to Northern Ireland. That is what Thomas Byrne, The Irish minister for European Affairs, said. According to the BBC, the decision could have led to controls at the border between EU member state Ireland and UK Northern Ireland, but was quickly withdrawn after criticism.
According to Byrne, “obviously” a mistake was made. It’s still too early to tell exactly what happened, said Byrne on the Irish radio station Newstalk, but it is clear that the effects of the activation of the so-called article 16 is not “complete thought”. “That’s too bad, but it’s teaching us a lesson now,” he said. The article, which may unilaterally set aside parts of the agreement in certain circumstances, is intended as a last resort to prevent serious trade distortions in Northern Ireland after Brexit.
According to the Brexit protocol, all products must be able to be transported from the EU to Northern Ireland without controls. The European Commission decided to invoke Article 16 after a conflict between the European Commission and pharmaceutical AstraZeneca. The Pharmaceutical said that in the first quarter the doses of the vaccine will be delivered much less than previously promised. Instead of 80 million, the pharmaceutical screwed the supply back to 31 million doses. The EU did not trust this, and it decided to review the pharmaceutical’s entire production line. The EU introduced export controls on vaccines produced in the EU. Brussels, by invoking Article 16, probably wanted to prevent vaccines from being transported to the United Kingdom by’ back door’.
The British also said that they had not been informed in advance on Friday. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland’s prime minister, Arlene Foster, wants to get rid of protocol altogether. “The protocol is unworkable,” she said to the BBC. According to Foster, the protocol also creates “significant tensions”. Foster said that she would press the British and Irish governments to remove the Brexit arrangements.
The World Health Organisation also criticises the EU’s move and says that such measures run the risk of prolonging the pandemic, because it takes longer for people to be vaccinated.