According to EU officials, the European Commission has made a ‘blunder’ by withdrawing the Brexit protocol across the Irish border in an argument over vaccines with the United Kingdom. The London government has said that it does not expect any disruption of supplies of vaccines to Britain.
Following AstraZeneca’s announcement this week that it would deliver significantly less vaccines to the EU than initially estimated, the EU announced on Friday that it would impose controls and restrictions on exports of vaccines. That announcement was understood by many as a threat to prevent the export of vaccines to the United Kingdom.
However, some of the EU measures to establish emergency controls at the Irish-British border in Northern Ireland were reversed within a few hours after both the UK and Ireland complained about those plans.
“They have acknowledged that they have made a mistake and I believe that we can now concentrate on the success of the vaccination programme,” said the British Cabinet Minister Michael Gove to Sky News.
UK Foreign Minister Dominic Raab said on Twitter that he was reassured that the EU “has no desire to prevent vaccine suppliers from fulfilling their contracts with the UK”.
EU officials are also calling the withdrawal of the Brexit protocol a blunder. In the five-year negotiations, the Prevention of controls at the Irish border was precisely a spearhead of the European Union. “It is better to realise at an early stage that there is a problem and to change it, rather than to stick with it and dig in,” said an EU official. ‘As soon as it became clear that it was causing political difficulties and that it was sensitive, particularly on the Irish and Northern Irish sides, we decided to withdraw it’, he said about the European Commission’s decision.
Another Brussels official called the introduction of border controls ‘simply and clearly a blunder’.