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The EU earlier justified the "safeguard measure" as an attempt to keep member states' vaccine rollouts on track
The EU earlier justified the 'safeguard measure' as an attempt to keep member states' vaccine rollouts on trackImage: Robin Utrecht/picture alliance

EU says won't restrict vaccine exports across Irish border

January 30, 2021

The European Union said it will not trigger an emergency override clause that sent alarm bells ringing across Belfast, Dublin and London.


The European Union on Friday said it will not use an emergency Brexit measure to restrict the export of coronavirus vaccines across the sensitive Irish border, after the United Kingdom and Ireland expressed "grave concerns" over the move.

The European Commission, in a statement, said it would "ensure that the Ireland/Northern Ireland Protocol is unaffected. The Commission is not triggering the safeguard clause."

The EU's executive arm added that it was currently in the process of "fine-tuning" the details of the regulation.

The Brexit deal's Northern Ireland protocol allows goods to flow between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland, which is part of the United Kingdom, without the need for customs checks at the border.

Under the protocol's Article 16, either party can unilaterally suspend the terms for specific goods if the agreement leads "to serious economic, societal or environmental difficulties that are liable to persist."

UK steps up COVID vaccinations

'Not something to be tampered with lightly'

Although the EU has rowed back from the Article 16 threat, a Commission statement said if there were vaccines circumventing the European system, "the EU will consider using all the instruments at its disposal."

The EU earlier justified the "safeguard measure" as an attempt to keep member states' vaccine rollouts on track. As the bloc fights to secure more doses of coronavirus shots, the clause could prevent the much-needed vaccines from moving across the relatively open border.

Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin hailed the EU’s decision to not invoke the emergency clause. His foreign minister, Simon Coveney, said on Twitter: "The Protocol is not something to be tampered with lightly, it's an essential, hard won compromise, protecting peace and trade for many."

The final version of the text will be published on Saturday, according to the EU.

see/sri (Reuters, dpa, AFP)

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