The British Government has announced it is willing to “move on” from the European Union’s attempts to create a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland and focus on helping Brussels overcome its vaccine issues.
Since Britain chose to opt out of the EU vaccine scheme, the UK has significantly outperformed the EU at providing vaccines. Currently, over 1 in 11 people in the UK have received their first dose of the vaccine. The closest EU country to this number is Spain, with only 2.8 per 100 people (as of 27th January).
The decision to pull out of the EU vaccine scheme was heavily criticised by many EU loyalists, but seems to have borne fruit.
A particular difficulty for the EU has been the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine, which it has only just approved, over a month after the UK. Due to issues at EU plants, there have been demands for UK-purchased vaccines to be taken and used in the EU to make up the shortfall.
The peak of this crisis was reached when the EU declared it would invoke Article 16 and add restrictions on exports into Northern Ireland. Following a drawn-out debate between the UK and EU and multiple criticisms from global organisations, the EU performed a U-turn late on Friday night, re-opening the border completely.
Despite this, the British Government has suggested that it is willing to “move on” and help the EU resolve its problems, even after what Northern Ireland’s First Minister described as an “incredible act of hostility”.
Michael Gove, the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, reportedly said: “We want to work with our friends and neighbours in the European Union.”
The pandemic has highlighted some shortcomings in EU procedures, with vaccines only playing a minor part in this. Many leaders hope that the relationship between Britain and the EU can remain strong and that the pandemic can be defeated through international co-operation.