The European Union, which exploited the border between British Northern Ireland and the EU’s Republic of Ireland as an all-important bargaining chip in the Brexit talks, ditched the deal it demanded for the province and announced a hard border in an attempt to remedy its vaccine failures, before backing off.
Northern Ireland, despite being an integral part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, as the name would suggest, has been virtually economically annexed by the EU, with even the British military required to fill in forms and alert NATO before moving assets there from the British mainland, because Brussels insisted this was the only way to avoid a “hard border” with the Republic of Ireland.
Many Brexit supporters suggested that the EU, which claimed its demands that Northern Ireland obey EU rules and be subjected to an EU-monitored trade border with the rest of the United Kingdom were made in the interests of Irish peace, never really cared about the island, and merely found it convenient leverage against the British government.
For some, those accusations were proven true when Brussels announced that it would itself be introducing a hard border between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland so it could keep hold of UK-bound vaccines, which it is trying to seize to make up for its own failure to secure an adequate number of jabs for EU citizens.
Reports indicate Brussels took this action, which the First Minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, described as an “incredible act of hostility”, without even bothering to consult EU Ireland, with Irish government ministers scrambling to assure people they were trying to address the situation on social media before the bloc ultimately abandoned its plans in the face of a growing public relations disaster.
This is genuinely extraordinary. The European Commission triggered Article 16 – in effect creating a hard border for vaccine movement on the island of Ireland – without consulting either the British or Irish governments.
Something has gone seriously, seriously wrong here. https://t.co/hWbJVgNsn6
— Harry Yorke (@HarryYorke1) January 29, 2021
“The European Union has once again shown it is prepared to use Northern Ireland when it suits their interests but in the most despicable manner — over the provision of a vaccine which is designed to save lives,” First Minister Foster, who supports Brexit and Northern Ireland’s place in the United Kingdom, but opposed the terms of Boris Johnson’s deal with the EU, had said.
“At the first opportunity the EU has placed a hard border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland over the supply chain of the coronavirus vaccine,” she added.
The Republic of Ireland’s political leaders, meanwhile, had expressed “shock” and “concern” at the EU’s announcement of a hard border to block vaccine movements, and relief when the Brussels backed down.
Unbelievable – a hard border, imposed by the EU, *one month* into the treaty, after it spent four years insisting that was unthinkable, to stop the UK getting vaccines it paid for, because of the Commission's shite handling of procurement. They have lost the plot. https://t.co/e0EiPFb0ZV
— Sam Bowman (@s8mb) January 29, 2021
Britain’s decision not to join in with the EU on vaccine procurement early on in the pandemic was widely condemned by British anti-Brexiteers and supposed health experts, many of whom essentially accused the Boris Johnson administration of making a call which would kill people in the name of narrow nationalism.
It ultimately proved to be the correct call, however, with the United Kingdom managing to approve vaccines, place orders, and begin mass inoculation programmes long before the EU.
Brussels, meanwhile, finds itself in a growing spat with AstraZeneca over the jab it devised with Oxford University, as EU-based plants face issues with production at scale. The bloc has been demanding UK-made vaccines intended for UK citizens be diverted to make up the shortfall, and is looking to block the export of UK-purchased Pfizer/BioNTech vaccines made in the EU to the wider UK if it does not get its way, even if the Northern Ireland border remains open..
Many EU governments have begun ordering vaccines at the national level in response to the fiasco, including from Russia, as critics accuse Brussels of “acting like the drunk guy in McDonald’s at 2:30 a.m. getting angry because everyone who placed their order before him got served before him.”
“Faux pas”. A faux pas might be accidentally calling someone’s new partner by their ex’s name. Instating a hard border in Northern Ireland to obstruct lifesaving vaccine exports without even telling Dublin first is stretching the definition somewhat. pic.twitter.com/lYor5ZWJDk
— Mark Wallace (@wallaceme) January 30, 2021