Under the post-Brexit deal, EU merchandise ought to nonetheless be capable to journey unhindered from the bloc to Northern Ireland
The European Union launched tighter guidelines Friday on exports of COVID-19 vaccines that might hit shipments to nations just like the United Kingdom, deepening a dispute with London over scarce provides of doubtless lifesaving photographs.
But amid an outcry in Northern Ireland and the UK, the European Commission made clear the brand new measure is not going to set off controls on vaccines shipments produced within the 27-nation bloc to the small territory that’s a part of United Kingdom bordering EU member Ireland.
Under the post-Brexit deal, EU merchandise ought to nonetheless be capable to journey unhindered from the bloc to Northern Ireland.
“In the process of finalisation of this measure, the Commission will ensure that the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol is unaffected,” the EU’s executive arm said in a statement late Friday.
Amid a dispute with Anglo-Swedish drugmaker AstraZeneca, EU Commission president Ursula von der Leyen and British leader Boris Johnson had an unexpected phone call, during which the U.K. Prime Minister “expressed his grave concerns about the potential impact which the steps the EU has taken today on vaccine exports could have,” a statement from the British government read.
The EU unveiled its plans to tighten rules on exports of coronavirus vaccines produced inside the bloc amid fears some of the doses it secured from AstraZeneca could be diverted elsewhere. The measure could be used to block shipments to many non-EU countries and ensure that any exporting company based in the EU will first have to submit their plans to national authorities.
The UK and Northern Ireland governments immediately lashed out at the move, saying the bloc invoked an emergency clause in its divorce deal with Britain to introducing controls on exports to Northern Ireland. Goods are supposed to flow freely between the EU and Northern Ireland under special arrangements for the U.K. region designed to protect the peace process on the island of Ireland.
But the EU later said it was not invoking Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol allowing either side to override parts of their deal.
“The Commission is not triggering the safeguard clause,” it mentioned in its assertion, including that the limiting laws have but to be finalized and will not be adopted earlier than Saturday.
The cellphone name between von der Leyen and Johnson considerably eased what was rapidly changing into a diplomatic flashpoint.
“We agreed on the principle that there should not be restrictions on the export of vaccines by companies where they are fulfilling contractual responsibilities,” von der Leyen said in a statement.
The EU hit out at AstraZeneca this week after the company said it would only supply 31 million doses of vaccine in initial shipments, instead of the 80 million doses it had hoped to deliver. Brussels claimed AstraZeneca would supply even less than that, just one-quarter of the doses due between January and March — and member countries began to complain.
The European Commission is concerned that doses meant for Europe might have been diverted from an AstraZeneca plant on the continent to the U.K., where two other company sites are located. The EU also wants doses at two sites in Britain to be made available to European citizens.
“The UK has legally-binding agreements with vaccine suppliers and it would not expect the EU, as a friend and ally, to do anything to disrupt the fulfilment of these contracts,” the UK mentioned.
AstraZeneca CEO Pascal Soriot advised Germany’s Die Welt newspaper this week that the U.Ok. authorities helped create the vaccine developed with Oxford University and signed its contract three months earlier than the EU did. Soriot mentioned that below the British contract, vaccines produced at U.Ok. websites should go to the U.Ok. first.
To head off related disputes and allay fears that vaccines may be diverted, the Commission launched the measures to tighten guidelines on the exports of photographs produced in EU international locations. The “vaccine export transparency mechanism″ will be used at least until the end of March to control shipments to non-EU countries.
The EU insisted that’s not an export ban, although it could be used to block shipments to the UK or many other non-EU countries. Many poorer nations and close neighbors are exempt.
Officials said it is intended to ensure EU member nations get the shots they bought from producers. The World Health Organization criticised the new EU export rules as “not helpful.” Director General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and different WHO officers warned of supply-chain disruptions that might ripple via the world and doubtlessly stall the combat in opposition to COVID-19.
The “advanced purchasing agreement” with the EU was signed in August, earlier than the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine had been correctly examined.
The European Medicines Agency permitted the vaccine on Friday, making it the third licensed to be used by EU nations.
Earlier, the 27-nation bloc and AstraZeneca made public a closely redacted model of their vaccine deal that is on the coronary heart of a dispute over the supply schedule.
The contract, agreed to final yr by the European Commission and the drugmaker, permits the EU’s member international locations to purchase 300 million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine, with an possibility for an additional 100 million doses. It’s one in every of a number of contracts the EU’s govt department has with vaccine makers to safe a complete of greater than 2 billion photographs.