The European Union has reversed its decision to trigger a clause in the Brexit deal to restrict the flow of COVID-19 vaccines entering the UK.
The move could have introduced checks at the Northern Ireland border to restrict exports from Ireland, which is in the EU, into Northern Ireland, which is part of the UK.
The Article 16 clause was initially devised as a last resort to alleviate serious disruption to trade in Northern Ireland after Brexit.
But the EU’s plan to trigger it sparked outrage in Dublin, Belfast and London, and Brussels backtracked on the decision hours after it was announced.
Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster said it was an “absolutely incredible act of hostility towards those of us in Northern Ireland”.
Ireland says it was not consulted by the European Commission before the decision.
“Clearly a mistake was made,” Ireland’s Europe Minister Thomas Byrne told Newstalk radio.
Asked if Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin was given any forewarning of the planned triggering of the clause, Byrne said he was not.
Three senior EU diplomats said member states were neither consulted on, or informed of, the Commission’s decision.
“It seems the Commission took this decision unilaterally,” an EU official said.
The official said it appeared the Commission’s intention was to include Northern Ireland in the vaccines export control regime.
But this effectively created a land border on the island of Ireland, and it had to row back when it realised the implications.
– with PA