Boris Johnson was among the first people to express “grave concerns” over the EU’s move to invoke Article 16 last night as the vaccine dispute threatened to spill over.
The Prime Minister held a call with European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen on Friday evening as Downing Street warned the bloc not to disrupt the supply of jabs.
In an extraordinary move that blindsided both the UK and Ireland, the EU invoked Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to stop the unimpeded flow of jabs from the bloc into the region.
Mr Johnson urged the EU to “urgently clarify its intentions” and detail how it will honour its commitments to the peace process – leading to a U-turn as the Commission announced it would “not triggering the safeguard clause” to ensure the protocol is “unaffected”.
But as the EU shoulders uproar from the UK government, it seems to have been forgotten that the Prime Minister himself said he would have “no hesitation” in triggering it – just two weeks ago.
The DUP’s Westminster leader Sir Jeffrey Donaldson put to him in the House of Commons: “The Prime Minister promised us that Northern Ireland would continue to have access to the UK internal market, yet in my constituency consumers are facing empty supermarket shelves, they can’t get parcels delivered from Great Britain.
“Small businesses can’t bring in spare parts and raw materials into Northern Ireland from Great Britain, steel importers are facing tariffs, and other problems as a result of the Northern Ireland protocol.
“So what I and the people of Northern Ireland need to know from the Prime Minister, the leader of the United Kingdom, is what his government is going to do to ensure this – will he consider invoking Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol to resolve these issues?
“The trader support service is welcome, but it isn’t the solution alone. We need direct government intervention to deal with this now.”
Boris Johnson replied: “I can tell the right honourable gentleman that at the moment goods are flowing effectively and in normal volumes between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and so far no lorries have been turned back. Yes, of course there are teething problems.
“What I can say, what I can confirm to him, is that if there are problems that we believe are disproportionate, then we will have no hesitation in invoking Article 16.”
Also, everyone seems to have missed the fact that Johnson threatened to do exactly the same thing 2 weeks ago.https://t.co/6qROkTk3SF— Otto English (@Otto_English) January 30, 2021