BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg warns VDL member states are ‘unhappy’ after ‘massive EU mess’

Ursula von der Leyen announces vaccination rollout across EU

The EU had said it would trigger article 16 to block vaccine exports from the bloc into Northern, but then made a staggering U-turn and said it was “not triggering the safeguard clause”. The article 16 threat has seen widespread condemnation from both within the EU and the UK. Ms Kuenssberg also said this was a “massive EU mess”.

BBC political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg tweeted: “Calm sounding statement tonight doesn’t make tonight’s debacle disappear.

“It was a massive EU mess again.

“Just amazing they let this happen as member states are not happy.”

Her comment was in response to EU president Ursula von der Leyen’s admission that the bloc was stepping back from the brinkmanship showed over the article 16 coronavirus vaccine crisis.

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Ms von der Leyen tweeted: “Constructive talks with Prime Minister Boris Johnson tonight.

“We agreed on the principle that there should not be restrictions on the export of vaccines by companies where they are fulfilling contractual responsibilities.”

EU member states were unhappy with the threat of using article 16, which was instigated only for “serious” trade difficulties.

The fact the bloc would use it to withhold vaccines has been seen as problematic and petty, particularly on both sides of the Irish border.

Irish foreign minister, Simon Coveney, described the U-turn by the EU as “welcome news”.

In a tweet he added: “Lessons should be learned; the protocol is not something to be tampered with lightly, it’s an essential, hard-won compromise, protecting peace and trade for many.”

Irish taoiseach Micheál Martin tweeted: “I welcome the decision by the European Commission tonight not to invoke the safeguard clause of the Ireland / Northern Ireland Protocol following constructive discussions with Ursula von der Leyen.

“This is a positive development given the many challenges we face in tackling COVID-19.”

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One follower of Mr Martin tweeted in reply: “When the EU Commission can take such a decision without even consulting the Irish Government it proves how low Ireland is on their priority list.

“They are prepared to accept a border in Ireland.

“The NI protocol has lost all credibility and must go now.”

However, another follower of the Irish taoiseach tweeted: “That’s nothing, the British Government makes all kinds of decisions regarding the six counties without consulting the Irish Government.

“At least the Commission walked this one back.”

Before the u-turn by the EU the Boris Johnson “sought an explanation from the European Commission” about the sudden move to invoke article 16 and block the movement of vaccines.

Yesterday a Number 10 spokesperson said: “The UK has legally binding agreements with vaccine suppliers and it would not expect the EU, as a friend and ally, to do anything to disrupt the fulfilment of these contracts.

“The UK has reiterated the importance of preserving the benefits of the Good Friday agreement”.

The Good Friday Agreement ensures power-sharing and peace in Northern Ireland and article 16 should only be invoked for serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties”.

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