EU performs U-turn on vaccine controls at Irish-UK border

Brussels, Jan 30 (efe-epa).- The European Union has backed down on its plan to subject vaccine exports to checks on the border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The European Commission on Friday implemented a mechanism to track the export of vaccines manufactured on EU soil amid a contract dispute with Anglo-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca.

To make the move effective, Brussels had to invoke article 16 of the Brexit deal on the sensitive border between Northern Ireland and the Republic but the move was met with immediate backlash from the British and Irish governments.

Ursula von der Leyen, the Commission chief, later spoke with the heads of both governments, UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Ireland’s Taoiseach Micheál Martin, in a bid to defuse the situation.

Following her talk with Johnson, von der Leyen tweeted: “We agreed on the principle that there should not be restrictions on the export of vaccines by companies where they are fulfilling contractual responsibilities.”

The Commission’s decision to tighten its grip on vaccine exports came after an escalating row with AstraZeneca over the small print of an advance purchase agreement for its Covid-19 vaccine.

The company informed the EU that there would be a shortfall of around 75% in the delivery of the first 100 million jabs, leading to suspicions in the EU that it had prioritized orders with third-party countries, such as the UK.

The EU has approved the use of three vaccines, Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca/Oxford University, but its rollout has been considerably slower than the UK. EFE-EPA


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