Senior government minister Michael Gove has confirmed the UK will continue its vaccine rollout ‘exactly as planned’ after the EU attempted to stop coronavirus vaccine shipments entering the UK.
The EU received backlash after invoking a Brexit deal clause on Friday, January 29, to effectively place a hard border on Northern Ireland and block vaccine exports into the region.
Just hours later, officials in Brussels did a U-turn on the decision and said they would not attempt to override the agreement designed to maintain stability in Ireland, where the open border helps keep political balance in check.
In the wake of the controversial decision and subsequent backtracking, Gove said the union recognised it made a mistake and that rollout of the coronavirus vaccine in the UK would not be impacted.
Per Sky News, he commented:
We’re confident that we can proceed with our vaccine programmes exactly as planned.
Last night the Prime Minister talked to President von der Leyen, the President of the European Commission, and made clear that we need to have the contracts that have been entered into honoured properly.
And it was made clear that that supply would not be interrupted so we can proceed with our plans and make sure that our so far highly-successful vaccination programme can continue.
According to Gove, UK officials promised the EU that they would ‘work with them to make sure their own problems can be tackled.’
The decision to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol came amid a row between the EU and AstraZeneca over supply of its COVID-19 jab, with Brussels suspecting the vaccine maker of giving preferential treatment to Britain.
Gove expressed his belief that the EU ‘recognise that they made a mistake in triggering Article 16, which would have meant the re-imposition of a border on the island of Ireland.’
But now the European Union have stepped back, and they’ve stepped back following clear conversations that the prime minister has had with the European Commission president and I’ve had with European Commission vice president.
Gove’s assurance about the continuation of the UK’s vaccine rollout comes amid warnings to wealthy countries from the World Health Organization to take a break from massive vaccination programmes to help ensure the vaccinations are distributed equally across different countries.
Gove has stressed that the UK has ‘entered into contractual arrangements with AstraZeneca and Pfizer’, and that officials ‘expect those arrangements to be honoured.’
The UK government is attempting to vaccinate everyone in the top four priority groups by the middle of February.
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