Brexit: EU Commission says ‘mistakes can happen’
After widespread outrage in Britain and Ireland over the threat to stop vaccines entering Northern Ireland from the EU, Commission spokesman, Eric Mamer attempted to excuse the bloc’s error. In a statement, he said: “Only the Pope is infallible. “Mistakes can happen but the important thing is that you recognise them early on, in this case, so early on that it was before the decision was finalised.”
However, mocking the statement from the spokesman, Mr Neil quickly hit out at Brussels.
He said: “Bringing the Pope into an argument over Northern Ireland is always guaranteed to bring folks together.
“These EU types really know their stuff.”
Ms von der Leyen will face questions today from MEPs after threatening to invoke Article 16 of the trade deal with the UK last week.
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Article 16 states one party can invoke unilateral trade measures if it has suffered damage from the free trade agreement.
Effectively, the bloc threatened to do so in order to stop EU vaccines travelling to Northern Ireland and therefore to the rest of the UK.
Due to concerns over the integrity of the peace process in Ireland, the threat was soon revoked by Ms von der Leyen.
The EU has now included provisions declaring vaccine supplies must have a customs-exit declaration, while manufacturers must seek the permission of the Commission to export before doing so.
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Such was the Commission president’s mistake that Ireland’s Foreign Minister, Simon Coveney, condemned the move.
Not only did he condemn the decision but warned taking such unilateral action without consulting the Irish government, should not happen again.
He said: “I think it was a mistake that everybody recognises should not have happened.
“I mean in simple terms, you do not touch the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland without full consultation with the people who are most impacted by it.
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“The Irish government, the British government and, perhaps most importantly, political leaders in Northern Ireland.
“That’s what happened on Friday, which should not have happened.
“And I think lessons have been learned as a result of that, and it certainly won’t happen again.”
The EU has so far struggled to implement its vaccination programme due to the supply chain issues suffered by manufacturers on the continent.
This has meant several countries have struggled to vaccinate their populations and in some cases, have been forced to cancel appointments due to the lack of supplies.
After talks, Ms von der Leyen did announce a deal worth an additional nine million doses from AstraZeneca on Monday.
These doses are expected to arrive in the first quarter of this year taking the total number of jabs to 40 million.
After delays, France’s vaccines chief, Alain Fischer, admitted his hope that delivery of the AstraZeneca vaccine will begin from the middle of this month.
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