EU civil war: Ireland breaks ranks to savage von der Leyen over vaccine threat
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Last week, Commission President Ursula von der Leyen announced plans to invoke Article 16 and carry out emergency provisions to stop vaccines passing through to Northern Ireland. In an embarrassing moment for Brussels, Ms von der Leyen was forced to revoke the threat amid outrage from officials in Ireland and Britain. Not only did Mr Coveney insist the EU had made a mistake but he also issued a warning to Ms von der Leyen.
He said: “I think it was a mistake that everybody recognises should not have happened.
“I mean in simple terms, you do not touch the protocol on Ireland and Northern Ireland without full consultation with the people who are most impacted by it.
“The Irish government, the British government and, perhaps most importantly, political leaders in Northern Ireland.
“That’s what happened on Friday, which should not have happened.
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“And I think lessons have been learned as a result of that, and it certainly won’t happen again.”
Although he added that he supports Ms von der Leyen, Mr Coveney insisted the EU Commission had made a serious mistake by not consulting the Irish government.
Despite revoking the threat to invoke Article 16, Brussels introduced a scheme which will require companies exporting from the EU to seek authorisation from the Commission.
Vaccine supplies will also need to have an exit declaration to track what is exported out of the bloc in detail.
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After AstraZeneca revealed it would not be able to fulfil its delivery of the drug, a bitter row broke out between the company and the EU.
Due to supply chain problems at its Dutch and Belgian plants, some concluded the EU will have 60 percent of its supplies cut by the end of March.
In order to remedy the problem, the company has now agreed to supply an additional nine million doses of the drug in the first quarter.
Originally, the EU signed a deal in August for 300 million doses of the drug.
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With this, the EU has maintained its target of vaccinating 70 percent of adults by the end of the summer.
After a call with the Prime Minister, Ms von der Leyen insisted there will be no disruption of contracts with any producer in the EU.
The EU desperately needs the vaccine to kickstart its rollout, which has so far struggled.
In contrast, a coronavirus vaccine has now been offered to all older residents at eligible care homes in England.
The Government has set a target of February 15, to vaccinate care home residents and carers, people over 70 and frontline care workers.
Overall, the UK has now vaccinated 8,977,329 with a first dose, while 491,053 have now been given a second shot.
As of January 31, the UK reported 21,088 cases combined with a further 587 deaths.
Both figures represent a reduction from the week ending January 24, while there were a further 3,039 new patients who were admitted.
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