Ursula von der Leyen has promised Boris Johnson that future EU controls on vaccines won’t disrupt contracted provides of the Belgian-made BioNTech/Pfizer vaccine to Britain.
The European Fee president made the dedication to the prime minister in a tense Friday night time name, which adopted the Fee’s controversial plan — hastily abandoned — to impose emergency border controls on vaccines coming into Northern Eire from the EU.
Ms von der Leyen tweeted that the talks with Mr Johnson had been “constructive”, including: “We agreed on the precept that there shouldn’t be restrictions on the export of vaccines by firms the place they’re fulfilling contractual tasks.”
Mr Johnson’s allies confirmed that this included the 40m doses that Pfizer is contracted to provide Britain from a plant in Belgium. The Fee didn’t instantly reply to a request for remark.
The dropping of the implied risk to Pfizer exports and the abandonment of the proposal to incorporate Northern Eire in new export controls has calmed rigidity between London and Brussels.
Mr Johnson has tried this week to keep away from stoking rigidity and inflaming a vaccine conflict which he believes would hurt each side and hinder the worldwide combat in opposition to Covid-19.
“The decision was effective, hopefully that’s the top of it,” mentioned one ally of the prime minister. “We don’t plan to dwell on it.”
However Arlene Foster, Northern Eire’s first minister, on Saturday known as on Mr Johnson to observe Brussels’ lead and override a part of the Brexit settlement to ease the stream of products between GB and NI.
Article 16 of the Northern Eire protocol has a “safeguard” clause to override the settlement, which is meant to take care of an open border on the island of Eire. It contains checks on GB/NI commerce.
The European Fee mentioned it will invoke Article 16 to justify its preliminary plan to impose vaccine export controls on Northern Eire, despite the fact that the area stays a part of the EU’s single marketplace for items.
It cited the danger of “critical societal difficulties” within the EU if the bloc was unable to deploy sufficient vaccines to its personal residents.
Julian Smith, former Northern Eire secretary, mentioned the EU had “pulled the emergency wire” with out following the correct processes that had been agreed over years of negotiations.
He advised BBC Radio 4’s At the moment programme the transfer got here “with out anyplace close to the extent of understanding of the Good Friday Settlement, of the sensitivities of the scenario in Northern Eire”.
“It was an nearly Trumpian act — I’m more than happy that they’ve modified their minds,” he mentioned.
The Fee has since republished its vaccine cargo management measures with the Article 16 proposals stripped out.
Cupboard minister Michael Gove mentioned that he had spoken to Maros Sefcovic, European Fee vice-president and co-chair of the EU-UK joint committee.
“Our shared precedence is ensuring the protocol works for the individuals of Northern Eire, defending beneficial properties of the peace course of and avoiding disruption to on a regular basis lives. Collectively dedicated to redoubling our efforts to deal with excellent points,” they each tweeted from their particular person twitter accounts.
Chatting with Sky Information, Mr Gove mentioned it had been made clear that the vaccine provide wouldn’t be interrupted, “so we are able to proceed with our plans and guarantee that our up to now extremely profitable vaccination programme can proceed.
“I believe the European Union recognise that they made a mistake in triggering Article 16, which might have meant the reimposition of a border on the island of Eire.”
In an interview with the Sunday Telegraph, vaccine minister Nadhim Zahawi mentioned that he was “assured” of vaccine provides by means of to March and mentioned that co-operation between the UK and EU can be key to combating the virus.
“I do not assume it is a Brexit situation. That is about ensuring that we shield essentially the most susceptible. It is a race in opposition to demise in some ways”, he advised the paper.
The export restrictions had drawn criticism from enterprise teams together with the Worldwide Chamber of Commerce, which warned they might result in retaliation from different nations and have a devastating impression on international vaccine provides.
It has additionally emerged that Belgium, a key location for vaccine manufacturing within the EU, has notified the Fee of a draft well being regulation that may give it new powers to curb medicines exports.
The proposed laws would permit Belgian authorities to limit or ban the cargo of crucial medicinal merchandise and lively elements, in case of shortages or potential shortages.
A spokesperson for Frank Vandenbroucke, Belgium’s well being minister, mentioned the notification to the fee was not associated to vaccine exports or uncertainties about jab provides.
The draft regulation aimed to arrange a “future legislative framework for managing pandemics extra effectively,” he added.