Brussels has canceled plans to invoke Article 16 of the post-Brexit Northern Ireland deal to restrict exports of COVID vaccines.
Ireland was not consulted by the European Commission before briefly seeking to restrict some exports of COVID-19 vaccines by invoking an emergency Brexit clause linked to Northern Ireland, Irish Minister for European Affairs said .
The EU abruptly called off plans to use the Article 16 clause to prevent COVID-19 vaccine exports from crossing the Irish border into the UK within hours on Friday after sending shockwaves across Northern Ireland, London and Dublin.
The initial decision to use the Brexit clause – part of the EU’s broader plans to control vaccine exports – illustrated just how badly Northern Ireland’s carefully tuned Brexit protocol can go, while showing panic over vaccine availability.
“This type of provision is standard in trade agreements, but in the situation in Northern Ireland it obviously has a different political resonance and it may be true that this was not fully appreciated by the drafters.” Irish Minister for Europe Thomas Byrne told Newstalk. Saturday.
“Obviously, a mistake was made,” Byrne said. “It is too early for me to say (how it happened)… It is clear that the implications of Article 16 have not been fully thought out, it is a shame, but it is a lesson for us all at this point.
When asked whether Irish Prime Minister Micheál Martin had been warned of the planned triggering of the provision, designed as a last resort to alleviate serious disruption to trade in Northern Ireland after Brexit, Byrne said he would not was not.
Three senior EU diplomats said member states had not been consulted or informed of the commission’s decision.
“It appears that the committee took this decision unilaterally,” an EU official said.
The official said it appeared the committee’s intention was to include Northern Ireland in the vaccine export control regime, but this effectively created a land border on the island of Ireland , and that she had to row when she realized the implications.
Preserving the 1998 peace deal that ended three decades of sectarian bloodshed in Northern Ireland, without allowing the UK to become a back door to EU markets via the land border between the UK and Ireland, led to the inclusion of the protocol in the UK divorce agreement.
The protocol achieved this by keeping Northern Ireland in both the EU’s single goods market and UK customs territory, and ‘it is not something to be handled lightly. Irish Foreign Minister Simon Coveney warned on Friday.
Following the diplomatic row, the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, urged Britain to end the post-Brexit protocol with the EU.
“The protocol is unworkable, let’s be very clear about it, and we have to see it replaced because otherwise there will be real difficulties here in Northern Ireland,” Foster told BBC radio on Saturday.
“It is absolutely shameful, and I have to say that the Prime Minister (Boris Johnson) must now act very quickly to deal with the real trade flows which are being disrupted between Britain and Northern Ireland,” Foster added who has long criticized the protocol.