Taoiseach says ‘lessons need to be learned’ following Northern Ireland protocol debacle

Clay Curtis
February 1, 2021

European Commission Executive Vice-President Valdis Dombrovskis said the protection and safety of EU citizens is a priority.

The UK and Northern Ireland governments immediately lashed out at the move, saying the bloc invoked an emergency clause in its divorce deal with Britain to introduce controls on exports to Northern Ireland.

But all five parties in Northern Ireland's devolved government and Irish prime minister Micheál Martin joined the United Kingdom government in condemning the move.

"I think that what what the European Union has now effectively done is set a precedent that has said that in circumstances where their single market is in danger and there's a potential threat, then the provisions of Article 16 can be triggered and, indeed, in their statement withdrawing Article 16 now, they made it clear that they reserve the right to use it and other instruments going forward".

The Cabinet minister said that the Government was "confident that we can proceed with our vaccine programmes exactly as planned" after discussions between Mr Johnson and Ms von der Leyen.

Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Sunday after a virtual meeting with the CEOs of vaccine producers including AstraZeneca that the company will now send a total of 40 million doses in the first quarter of the year and start deliveries one week earlier than scheduled.

Cabinet Minister Michael Gove said the government expects the vaccines to be supplied as planned after the European Union addressed the "mistake" in its proposal to tighten export rules for COVID-19 vaccines produced in the 27 member nations.

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People from other states, only some of whom were recently allowed back into the state, were again asked to stay away. Anyone now in WA from another region should stay put.

Ireland complained that it had not even been consulted by Brussels before it made its move.

AstraZeneca has been making millions of doses in Britain, but it told the European Union it could not divert any to the continent until it fulfills a contract with London.

World Health Organization spokeswoman Margaret Harris said she wanted to appeal to lower risk groups, telling them "you can wait", because ensuring equitable global distribution is "clearly morally the right thing to do".

The EU Commission wrote that it would not trigger the protocol, but warned: "Should transits of vaccines and active substances toward third countries be abused to circumvent the effects of the authorisation system, the EU will consider using all the instruments at its disposal".

"The UK has a long way to go, we have a long way to go, Europe has long way to go", he said. The EU said it provided 336 million ($408 million) to help finance the production of AstraZeneca's vaccine at four factories months before it was approved by medical regulators.

The EU is also in a supply dispute with Pfizer, which is set to fall short of the contracted vaccine volume for the EU by the end of March.

The EU has insisted that its controls are a temporary scheme, and not an export ban. Britain, which acted quickly to fund research and pre-order supplies, has managed to give vaccine doses to 12.5 per 100 people, compared with a dismal 2.5 in the EU. In fact, the company said last week that it would provide a million shy of that amount.

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