The European Union on Friday sought to restrict exports of COVID-19 vaccines through the Irish border to the United Kingdom by invoking emergency clauses in the Brexit divorce deal, sending shockwaves through both Ireland and Northern Ireland.
In a steep escalation of the EU’s fight to secure vaccine supplies, the EU triggered clauses in the Northern Irish Protocol that would limit the supply of vaccines through the Irish border to the United Kingdom.
Northern Irish unionists cast the move as an act of hostility while Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin sought urgent clarification from European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
As Britain considered its response, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson expressed his concern and said the EU had to clarify its intentions to ensure it honoured its commitments to Northern Ireland.
“The PM set out his concerns about the EU’s use of Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol and what these actions may mean for the two communities in Northern Ireland,” a spokesman for Johnson said in a statement.
Johnson told Martin that the EU “must urgently clarify its intentions and what steps it plans to take to ensure its own commitments with regards to Northern Ireland are fully honoured,” the spokesman added.
It was not immediately clear if the move to invoke the article, set out in a document published on Friday, would come into effect immediately – or indeed if was some sort of mistake.
A link to the document was no longer working at 2050 GMT.
Euronews said the whole thing was a ‘mistake’ and an ‘oversight’. The Commission did not comment when contacted
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