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EU triggers Article 16 and introduces controls on vaccines to Northern Ireland

The EU has overridden a part of the Northern Ireland Brexit agreement and has made the decision to introduce export controls on coronavirus vaccines made within the bloc.

The move comes as the EU is involved in

an ongoing row with the UK over the supply of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine.

The Brexit deal agreed between Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the EU facilitated the free movement of goods being exported between the EU and Northern Ireland without any checks or controls.

But the EU believed this could be used to circumvent export controls, with NI becoming a backdoor to the wider UK, so it has therefore invoked Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol which allows parts of the deal to be unilaterally overridden.

In a new regulation the European Commission stated: "This is justified as a safeguard measure pursuant to Article 16 of that Protocol in order to avert serious societal difficulties due to a lack of supply threatening to disturb the orderly implementation of the vaccination campaigns in the Member States."

DUP Leader and First Minister of Northern Ireland Arlene Foster MLA gave her response:

"This is an incredible act of hostility. By triggering Article 16 in this manner, the European Union has once again shown it is prepared to use Northern Ireland when it suits their interests but in the most despicable manner - over the provision of a vaccine which is designed to save lives.

“At the first opportunity the EU has placed a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland over the supply chain of the Coronavirus vaccine.

“With the European Union using Article 16 in such an aggressive and most shameful way, it is now time for our Government to step up. I will be urging the Prime Minister to act and use robust measures including Article 16 to advance the interests of Northem Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom."

TUV leader Jim Allister MLA responded angrily to the move.

“This afternoon’s invocation of Article 16 of the Protocol to inhibit exports of COVID vaccines from the EU to Northern Ireland is the most telling illustration imaginable that for the EU the Protocol is a plaything to be exploited when it suits its selfish interests. The idea that the EU cares anything for Northern Ireland or its people is exposed as utterly bogus.

“The effect of today’s regulation is to disavow the much vaunted free trade from the EU to Northern Ireland as part of its single market and instead to treat deliveries of vaccines from the EU to NI as “exports”, which they can then restrict, lest such vaccines would make their way to GB.

“The fact that the EU has so unilaterally invoked Article 16 to serve its selfish purposes, leaves HMG with no excuse for not itself now invoking it to protect the vast disruption to trade that we are day and daily experiencing from GB.

“I trust the supporters of “rigorous implementation” of the Protocol will now see what sort of a charlatan organisation it is dealing with.”

This evening, Secretary of State for NI, commented: “Northern Ireland receives its vaccines as part of UK-wide procurement - with over 220,000 vaccines administered to date.

“The Government has contracts with AstraZeneca and others to ensure vaccines are delivered on schedule, and guarantee reliable vaccine provision across the whole of the UK.”

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