EU restricts vaccine supply to Northern Ireland, UK considering response

FILE PHOTO: A vial of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is seen ahead of being administered at the Royal Victoria Hospital, on the first day of the largest immunisation programme in the British history, in Belfast, Northern Ireland December 8, 2020. Liam McBurney/Pool via REUTERS//File Photo

LONDON (Reuters) – The European Union moved on Friday to restrict exports of COVID-19 vaccines into Northern Ireland by overriding parts of the Brexit deal’s Protocol, sparking widespread anger from politicians in the British province.

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster described as “an incredible act of hostility” the decision by the EU to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Irish Protocol, which allows Britain or the EU to take unilateral action if there is an unexpected negative effect arising from the agreement.

A spokesman for the British government said it would be “be carefully considering next steps”, adding that senior minister Michael Gove had expressed to the EU the “UK’s concern over a lack of notification from the EU about its actions in relation to the NI protocol.”

Earlier the European Commission agreed a plan to control exports of vaccines from the European Union, including to Britain, arguing it needed to do so to ensure its own supplies.

Northern Ireland receives its vaccines from Britain but the move angered politicians in the province less than a month after Britain left the EU’s orbit at the end of 2020.

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