Tony Blair says EU was 'very foolish' over NI vaccine move

Tony Blair Says Eu Was 'Very Foolish' Over Ni Vaccine Move
Tony Blair, © PA Archive/PA Images
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By Sam Blewett, PA Political Correspondent

Tony Blair has criticised the European Union’s short-lived move to trigger article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol as a “very foolish” move that jeopardised the peace process.

The former UK prime minister, a vocal supporter of the UK remaining in the European bloc, said Brussels’ action in triggering article 16 of the protocol to control the movement of Covid-19 jabs had been “unacceptable”.

The EU backtracked on the move, imposed unilaterally as it faces shortfalls on vaccine supplies, after facing universal criticism from London, Dublin and Belfast.

It was a very foolish thing to do

Asked if the move was irresponsible, Mr Blair told Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday: “Yes, it was a very foolish thing to do and fortunately they withdrew it very quickly.


“I was somebody who negotiated the Good Friday Agreement, it’s brought peace to the island of Ireland and it is absolutely vital that we protect it and that’s why what the European Commission did was unacceptable but, as you say, fortunately they withdrew it very quickly.”



While the EU quickly backtracked on the move, attempts to soothe tensions did little to stem the flow of criticism, with Julian Smith, a Conservative MP and former Northern Ireland secretary, saying the “EU cocked up big time” in risking a hard border returning to the island of Ireland.

“And they did that, in my view, without anywhere near the understanding of the Good Friday Agreement, of the sensitivity of the situation in Northern Ireland, and it was an almost Trumpian act,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme.

The Taoiseach has since said that the move to invoke article 16 was a mistake, made as people were blinded “in an exclusive focus on the row with AstraZeneca”.

Taoiseach: EU made mistake over NI protocol, blind...
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Micheál Martin rejected Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster’s view that the plan was an act of hostility towards the region.

He said the move should be seen in the context of the “very bitter row” between the EU and vaccine manufacturer AstraZeneca.

Although DUP leader Ms Foster has urged the UK prime minister to tear up and replace the protocol, Mr Martin said that he had spoken to Boris Johnson about the situation and they agreed on the importance of the protocol in allowing seamless economic activity on the island of Ireland.

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