Tighter rules are introduced by the European Union on Friday regarding exports of Covid-19 vaccines that might hit shipments to countries like the United Kingdom as the dispute has deepened with London over scarcity in supply of potential life-saving shots.
There has been a huge outcry in the UK and Northern Ireland as it has been made clear by the European Commission that the new measure is not going to trigger controls on the shipments of vaccines that are being produced in the 27-nation bloc in the small territory that is very much part of United Kingdom bordering Ireland, an EU member.
The products of the EU under the post-Brexit deal will still be able to travel without any impediment from the bloc to Northern Ireland.
On Friday, the executive arm of the EU said in a statement that the commission is going to ensure the finalization process of this measure and the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol will remain unaffected.
During a dispute with AstraZeneca, an Anglo-Swedish drugmaker, Ursula von der Leyen, EU Commission, and Boris Johnson, the British leader got an unexpected phone call where the UK Prime minister expressed grave concerns about the potential impact as the steps taken by the EU has taken today on the vaccine exports. This is a statement that came from the British government.
Plans are unveiled by the EU as they have tightened rules on exports of coronavirus vaccines that have been produced inside the blocs as there have been fears that some of the doses that are secured from AstraZeneca can be diverted elsewhere. The measure can be used to block shipments to many other non-EU countries and it has ensured that any export company that is based in the EU has to submit their plans first to national authorities.
The Northern Ireland and UK governments have said that the bloc has invoked emergency clauses in its divorce deal with Britain and they have lashed out at the move in introducing control on exports to Northern Ireland.
But later, the EU has said that it was not invoking Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol that has allowed either side so that parts of the deal can be overridden.
In a statement, it has said that the safeguard clause is not triggered by the commission and has added that the restricting regulations are still to be finalized and it is not going to be adopted before Saturday.
The phone call that happened to Johnson and von der Leyen has eased out a bit what was likely to become a diplomatic flashpoint.
In a statement, von der Leyen has said that they have agreed on the principles and there should not be any kind of restrictions on the vaccine imports by the companies where they have been fulfilling the contractual responsibilities.
The EU has hit out at AstraZeneca as it was not going to supply 31 million vaccine doses.