With the UK leaving the EU after 47 years in the union, the country has been embroiled in tensions with EU members over many issues. The distribution of the Corona vaccine is the latest issue to escalate the dispute between the two sides, and they are accusing each other of it.
The EU imposes customs regulations between the two countries
As disputes erupted in Europe over the distribution of the Corona vaccine, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson accused the EU of undermining the Northern Ireland Protocol under the bilateral agreement and called for immediate action to resolve the issue.
The EU has restricted vaccine exports after failing to agree on a timeline for the delivery of the corona vaccine to the pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and decided to activate the article on the border between Northern and Southern Ireland in order to prevent Northern Ireland from becoming a back door for British access to the EU’s single market.
With the activation of this article, known as Article 16, the EU can temporarily establish customs inspections at the border between the two Ireland and impose restrictions on the entry and exit of goods from this region.
Boris Johnson outraged by EU decision
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has expressed outrage at the EU decision, accusing them of undermining the agreement between the UK and the EU, and believes the EU is falling short of its commitments to Ireland.
Speaking in Parliament, Boris Johnson said: It was most regrettable that the EU should seem to cast doubt on the Good Friday Agreement, the principles of the peace process, by seeming to call for a border across the island of Ireland. We will work to ensure that there are no such borders, we will respect the peace process and, indeed, no barriers down the Irish Sea, and the principle of unfettered access across all parts of our United Kingdom is upheld.
WHO protests EU decision
Protests against the EU decision to establish customs inspections on the border between Ireland and Ireland were not limited to UK. The decision even provoked a reaction from the WHO, which also objected to the EU decision. Arlene Foster first minister of Northern Ireland also tweeted in protest of the EU decision that the hostile move would intensify the border separation between Ireland and Northern Ireland; This is contrary to the spirit of the Irish Protocol adopted by the EU.
Union officials say AstraZeneca must comply with its contract with the union and deliver the 300 million vaccines pre-purchased in August. But AstraZeneca, which is facing production restrictions, says it must reduce the 100 million doses sold to Britain to deliver European orders, which is against the company’s contract with UK. Neither side is willing to back down, and this has become a crisis in bilateral relations since UK left the EU.
AstraZeneca says she has no obligation on when the vaccine will be delivered
AstraZeneca, an Anglo-Swedish company, has two factories in the UK and two factories in Belgium and the Netherlands. The company told the European Commission, which is responsible for purchasing and distributing the Corona vaccine across the Union, that its first shipment of vaccine would be less than expected. Without elaborating on the volume of the initial shipment, the company blamed the reduction in production at the Belgian plant on the reason for the lower-than-expected supply chain in Europe.
AstraZeneca’s chief has defended the company’s shock admission that the EU’s first coronavirus vaccine deliveries will fall far short of expectations, claiming the number that will be delivered is “not so bad” and his company only committed to meet demand to its “best effort.”
In setting out the company’s position, Pascal Soriot, the chief executive of the Anglo-Swedish firm, told Italy’s La Repubblica newspaper in an interview that the EU’s deliveries were in large part delayed because the bloc was late signing a contract for the vaccine — three months behind the U.K. — and therefore EU manufacturing facilities were playing catch-up in ironing out glitches.
But the president of the European Commission rejected the argument, stating that AstraZeneca had a legal duty to use the capacity of all its factories to fulfil its obligations.
The EU has reportedly paid €336 million to pre-purchase 300 million doses of the Corona vaccine from AstraZeneca. The UK has also purchased 100 million doses of the vaccine, which is scheduled to be delivered in the first quarter of this year.
Michael Gove said that Britain had an “absolute assurance” that vaccine supplies promised by AstraZeneca would be delivered in full and ruled out allowing any to be diverted to the European Union.
The Cabinet Office minister said that supplies would be sufficient to ensure that the roll-out remained “precisely on track” in the UK. Helping other EU nations with shortfalls would have to wait until the “effective acceleration” of the UK vaccination programme had been delivered, he said.
However, European Commission President von der Leyen says the terms of the contract are clearly diamond, and AstraZeneca has promised that no further commitments will prevent the contract from being implemented. He noted that he had published parts of the agreement to treat European citizens transparently. Meanwhile, the UK has refused to publish the contract with AstraZeneca, calling it against the national security of the country.
Delays in the timely delivery of the vaccine have led to widespread disruption of the vaccination process across Europe and the formation of a trade war between Britain and the EU. These developments have led to a shortage of vaccine stockpiles in Europe, disrupted vaccination plans and put pressure on EU officials.
Pfizer also delivers its vaccine to the EU late
Pfizer had previously told the EU it could not deliver its vaccine on time. The EU has faced a shortage of vaccines after AstraZeneca said it could not deliver enough vaccines, while infection and death rates are high in member states. EU officials are under pressure to criticize the slow pace of vaccine distribution in many member states. The EU procures and distributes the vaccine on behalf of the 27 member states.
The Cabinet Office minister, Michael Gove, has stated that the EU has violated Article 16 of the NI Protocol, which has undermined UK confidence. He also wrote a letter to the European Commission Vice-President calling for respect for the protocol, stressing that trade between Ireland should not be subject to political tensions.
Northern Ireland is the most important issue in the post-election period between UK and the EU
Northern Ireland was the main point of contention between UK and the EU during the Brexit negotiations. After months of negotiations on the future of the region, the two sides agreed; But analysts say its effectiveness is unclear.
Northern Ireland has been in a special situation since UK officially left the EU. The region remains on the one hand in the political territory of the UK and on the other hand in the Customs Union and the Common Market of the EU.
The decision of the European Commission to activate Article 16 of the NI Protocol shows the depth of the differences between the two sides, which even the 1,200-page agreement on UK’s withdrawal from the EU could not resolve.
After the outbreak of the new variant of coronavirus in UK, which is now out of control and which Boris Johnson and his government are unable to manage, the need for rapid and widespread vaccination in this country has become more and more. This has damaged UK’s credibility since leaving the EU, and UK’s international reputation has been threatened by Boris Johnson’s misguided and selfish policies.