A top Brussels official has said people should stop playing the “blame game” following the EU’s controversial threat to block the flow of coronavirus vaccines into Northern Ireland.
European Commission vice-president Maros Sefcovic said it “deeply regrets” its hastily-reversed threat last month to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.
However, he also said “it would be better not to engage in any more blame game and acknowledge a mistake was made”.
The Westminster, Belfast and Dublin governments had been blindsided by the attempt to invoke the clause amid a row over the supply of UK-manufactured vaccines to Europe.
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Article 16 overrides part of the Northern Ireland Protocol which prevents a hard border on the island of Ireland, and was intended as an emergency measure only.
After condemnation, the European Commission quickly backtracked, but it caused a massive political fallout, particularly in Northern Ireland.
Sefcovic came under scrutiny on Tuesday as he appeared before Ireland’s European affairs committee – and he was accused of failing to engage with the questions asked of him.
He faced criticism from a number of political representatives, who accused him of not providing clarity around the bloc’s decision.
Fianna Fail TD Dara Calleary said Northern Ireland and Ireland “wasn’t in the hearts and minds” of those in the Commission on 29 January, when the Article 16 threat was made.
“You say Article 16 was never activated… the giving of the signal was enough to do the damage.”
Sefcovic said the Commission’s primary objective had been to make sure that Europe was getting its fair share of vaccines.
“Really, we had the feeling that we are not always getting our fair share from the production which is made in the European Union.
“Simply, we didn’t have enough transparency of where the vaccines were going.”
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