British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said the European Union undermined the Northern Ireland Protocol by triggering an emerging provision in the Brexit Protocol in a bid to control COVID-19 vaccine efforts.
“Our commitment to the people of Northern Ireland and our Union is unshakeable. Recent EU moves have undermined the Protocol & understandably provoked concern”, Johnson wrote in a Twitter post on Tuesday.
“Let me underline that, now & in the future, Northern Ireland’s place in the UK will be protected and strengthened,” he added.
Our commitment to the people of Northern Ireland and our Union is unshakeable. Recent EU moves have undermined the Protocol & understandably provoked concern. Let me underline that, now & in the future, Northern Ireland’s place in the UK will be protected and strengthened. 1/2
— Boris Johnson (@BorisJohnson) February 2, 2021
On Friday, the Commission decided to invoke Article 16 of the Brexit Protocol, which allows either the EU or the UK to unilaterally suspend parts of the Brexit agreement. The reason behind the move was to prevent vaccines manufactured within the EU from reaching the UK through Northern Ireland, which is still bounded by EU custom rules.
The decision prompted an outcry by Irish Taoiseach Micheal Martin and even Johnson, but the Commission chief, Ursula von der Leyen was quick to tweet that no border checks will be introduced. Admitting that a mistake was made and with her spokesperson arguing that only the Pope is infallible, von der Leyen pointed to the Commission’s Executive Vice-President and Trade Commissioner, Valdis Dombrovskis as the one responsible for the U-turn move.
Talking to MEPs on Tuesday, von der Leyen assumed “full responsibility” for the emergency provision which could bring the introduction of border controls between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland.
The British PM also urged “action from the EU to resolve outstanding problems with Protocol implementation”, in a bid to preserve the benefits of the Good Friday Agreement an to ensure that “Northern Ireland benefits from Brexit just like every other part of our United Kingdom.”