EU doesn’t understand ‘shock and anger’ caused by threat to block UK vaccines, No 10 says

James Morris
·Senior news reporter, Yahoo News UK
·2 min read
Prime Minister Boris Johnson leaves 10 Downing Street to attend Prime Minister's Questions at the Houses of Parliament, London. Picture date: Wednesday February 10, 2021. (Photo by Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images)
Boris Johnson's government has attacked the EU over its threat to block the flow of coronavirus vaccines into Northern Ireland. (Ian West/PA Images via Getty Images)

Boris Johnson has attacked the EU for failing to understand the “shock and anger” caused by its threat to block the flow of coronavirus vaccines into Northern Ireland.

It comes amid ongoing tension between the UK and EU regarding the Northern Ireland Protocol, which has caused some disruption to trade and the movement of consumer goods since the Brexit transition period ended on 1 January.

In a letter to Michael Gove on Wednesday addressing those issues, European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic did not reference the hastily-reversed threat last month to invoke Article 16 of the protocol to stop the unimpeded flow of jabs from the bloc into Northern Ireland.

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As Gove and Sefcovic were set to meet on Thursday, Boris Johnson’s spokesman said it was “disappointing” the European Commission “failed to acknowledge the shock and anger” felt in Northern Ireland over the row.

He said: “We have set out the issues that we want to see addressed and that is the purpose of the meeting later.

“It is disappointing that the Commission has failed to acknowledge the shock and anger felt across the community in Northern Ireland from its decision to trigger Article 16 and the need to take urgent steps to restore confidence as a result.

“We have set out in our letter from [Gove] to the vice-president the issues that we want to see resolved, that’s our focus and that’s why the meeting will take place later today.

However, on Wednesday, European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen did apologise for “mistakes” that led to Article 16 being triggered.

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The Westminster, Belfast and Dublin governments had been blindsided by the attempt to invoke the clause amid a row over the supply of UK-manufactured vaccines to Europe.

Article 16 overrides part of the Northern Ireland Protocol which prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland, and was intended as an emergency measure only.

After condemnation, the European Commission quickly backtracked on the decision to trigger it, but it caused massive political fallout, particularly in Northern Ireland.

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