The EU has repealed yesterday’s decision to introduce controls on vaccine supplies across the Northern Ireland border, in a commitment that would have overridden the Brexit trade deal.
The initial decision would have seen more checks in place at the border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The aim of this was to halt jab shipments reaching the UK.
The Brexit trade agreement states that there will be no controls on exported products between the EU and Northern Ireland. However, Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol gives both the UK and the EU the power to enact control measures if any aspect of the deal is considered to be causing “economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.
The EU announced that the clause would be used in relation to vaccines. This would prevent Northern Ireland from becoming an open door for jabs to be sent to mainland UK. It initially claimed that its actions were “justified”, although Arlene Foster, First Minister of Northern Ireland, believed it was “an act of aggression” and said the EU were “using Northern Ireland as a pawn”.
This sparked uproar across the globe, including criticism from the World Health Organisation, suggesting huge knock-on effects to vaccine supplies worldwide. As a result, the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, later announced on Twitter that the EC had reversed the decision. After talks with UK PM Boris Johnson, there was an agreement that there should be no vaccine export restrictions.
Constructive talks with Prime Minister @BorisJohnson tonight.
We agreed on the principle that there should not be restrictions on the export of vaccines by companies where they are fulfilling contractual responsibilities.
— Ursula von der Leyen (@vonderleyen) January 29, 2021
This late-night tweet began to reduce any potential threats of a “vaccine war” being created across Europe. Subsequently, supplies have been allowed to continue reaching the UK.