5 February 2021 No Comments by The Northern Standard

Tension that had arisen over the Northern Ireland protocol element of the Brexit agreement in the last week showed no signs of dissipating yesterday. Although the European Commission quickly backtracked on an initial indication last week that it would trigger a safeguard clause in the protocol – Article 16 – to introduce monitoring controls on the export of Covid-19 vaccines, the controversy sparked by the threatened move has manifested in a week of strong political commentary on both sides of the Border and in the UK.

If the Commission had proceeded it would have meant Customs checks being imposed on vaccines manufactured in Europe which entered Northern Ireland. Ireland’s European Commissioner and former Midlands North West MEP Mairead McGuinness said the Commission’s initial decision had been “a mistake which could have had very serious consequences”, although she expressed the view that the Commission hadn’t fully appreciated the reaction in Ireland to the move, and had intended it to be “a market information gathering tool”.

The political reality of triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol wasn’t fully understood, Ms McGuinness stated. “On the wider issue as to how Northern Ireland entered the equation, I’m afraid the political reality of the paragraph wasn’t fully understood. It immediately was when the interventions…

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