DUP leader Arlene Foster hits out at ‘disgraceful’ EU after ’embarrassing’ border backdown

EU calls to invoke Article 16 are ‘disgraceful’ says Foster

The First Minister of Northern Ireland made her anger known as she blasted the European Union on the BBC Today Programme, labelling the calls to invoke Article 16 as an “act of hostility.” Arlene Foster said Brussels had been motivated by the “embarrassment and mismanagement” of Europe’s struggling vaccine rollout programme. It comes as the World Health Organisation was forced to wade in on the row over the supply coronavirus vaccines within the EU.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister told the BBC Today programme the threat to impose vaccine export controls between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland was “disgraceful.”

She said: “Since the 2016 Brexit referendum we have been treated to hyperbole about the border on the island of Ireland and how the addition of even an extra camera on the road between Belfast and Dublin would have caused great difficulty.

“And yet 29 days since the protocol was put in place they threatened to invoke article 16 despite the fact that we in Northern Ireland have been dealing with trade disruption with an unfair and unworkable protocol

“Which was put in place to deal with demands from the European Union’s side.

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“So it is an absolutely incredible act of hostility towards those of us in Northern Ireland and it was nothing to do with making sure that Northern Ireland was in a peaceful state

“And it had all to do with the European Union’s vaccine embarrassment and mismanagement,” she added. 

“It is absolutely disgraceful and I have to say the Prime Minister now needs to act very quickly to deal with the real trade flows which are being disrupted between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”

Ms Foster’s remarks came as WHO bosses warned new European Union moves to tighten rules on the export of COVID-19 shots were “not helpful.” 

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Speaking at a World Economic Forum event, chiefs said the Bloc’s restrictions also mustn’t get in the way of beating the disease worldwide. 

The EU Commission introduced measures yesterday to tighten rules on exports of shots produced in its 27-member countries.

The “vaccine export transparency mechanism” will be used until the end of March to control vaccine shipments to non-EU countries and to ensure that any exporting company based in the EU first submits its plans to national authorities for approval. 

European Commission executive vice-president Valdis Dombrovskis told a Brussels press conference: “Today the Commission has adopted an implementing regulation making the export of certain products subject to an export authorisation.

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“This regulation concerns the transparency and export of COVID-19 vaccines.”

However, Dr Mariangela Simao, WHO’s assistant director-general for access to medicines and health products warned there would be a big effect of restrictions like those by the EU on the global supply chain.

She added: “It’s not helpful to have any country at this stage put in export bans or barriers that will not allow for the free movement of the necessary ingredients that will make vaccines, diagnostics and other medicine available to all the world.”

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the WHO claimed the export ban “could become a lose-lose situation rather than a win for Europe situation.”

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