Northern Ireland news

Brexit: EU invokes Article 16, introducing controls on Covid vaccine exports to Northern Ireland

First Minister Arlene Foster has denounced the EU decision

A MOVE last night by the EU to prevent Northern Ireland from being used as a back door to funnel coronavirus vaccine from the bloc into the rest of the UK has been branded an "incredible act of hostility" by the DUP.

Stormont First Minister Arlene Foster's comments came as the EU's triggered Article 16 of Brexit's Northern Ireland Protocol to stop unfettered flow of inoculations from the EU into the region.

The protocol, with is part of the Brexit withdrawal deal, normally allows for 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 the north as the region remains in the single market for goods and still operates under EU customs rules.

The EU has triggered Article 16 of the protocol to temporarily place export controls on this movement in respect of vaccines.

It comes amid a deepening row over the allocation of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine after the company announced delays to its EU operations.

The move to activate Article 16 will frustrate any effort to use Northern Ireland as a back door to bring vaccines into Great Britain.

The Taoiseach said he had been in contact with EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen to raise concerns about the decision.

The Republic's Minister for Foreign Affairs, Simon Coveney also said on Twitter: "We are working with the EU Commission to try to resolve this issue and protect the integrity and operation of the NI Protocol."

Mrs Foster, who described the move as "an incredible act of hostility", said: "By triggering Article 16 in this manner, the EU 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," she said.

Alliance MP for North Down Stephen Farry, tweeted: "Use of Article 16 is not justified or warranted in this situation. We don't need a vaccine war."

UUP leader Steve Aiken said the British government should now invoke Article 16 in response to the EU's actions.

SDLP leader Colum Eastwood said the move undermined progress made to defend the interests of this island and described it as a "grave error of in judgement".

The Foyle MP said we should all approach the fight against Covid-19 as internationalists, working together to find solutions.

"The disproportionate decision... undermines the work that has taken place over the last five years to defend the interests of people on this island.

“We face a common threat. Our response to this virus, and to the supply of vaccines, should be characterised by our common values.

"I am a proud European because I believe in cooperation, compromise and solidarity across national borders. This decision sadly places the Commission at odds with those values."

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