Nigel Farage on European Commission’s vaccine demands
A row over the allocation of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine has seen the European Union trigger a protocol in the Brexit Withdrawal Agreement which impacts Northern Ireland. The tensions arose after Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine makers announced delays to its EU operations.
What is Article 16?
The protocol the EU has triggered is part of the Brexit withdrawal deal and normally permits free movement of goods from the EU into Northern Ireland.
Under the terms of the protocol, goods should be able to move freely between the EU and Northern Ireland as the region remains in the single market for goods and still operates under EU customs rules.
However, triggering the article temporarily places export controls on this movement in respect of vaccines.
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Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster has slammed the EU’s triggering of Article 16 to stop the unrestrained movement of inoculations from the EU into the region an “incredible act of hostility”.
The move to activate Article 16 will frustrate any effort to use Northern Ireland as a back door to bring vaccines into Great Britain.
Mrs Foster said: “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.”
The regulation means Northern Ireland will be considered an export territory for the purposes of vaccine sent from the EU/the Republic of Ireland.
Northern Ireland’s vaccines arrive from the rest of the UK at present so those will be unaffected.
The DUP leader added: “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 Northern Ireland and the rest of the United Kingdom.”
Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove has told the EU the UK is “carefully considering” the next steps.
The European Commission said: “Exports of goods from Northern Ireland to other parts of the United Kingdom cannot be restricted by Union law unless this is strictly required by international obligations of the Union.
“Therefore, movements of goods covered by this regulation between the Union and Northern Ireland should be treated as exports.
“Whilst quantitative restrictions on exports are prohibited between the Union and Northern Ireland, in accordance with Article 5 (5) of the Protocol on Ireland/Northern Ireland, 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.”
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