Ursula von der Leyen – Brexit latest: Von der Leyen asked to resign after ‘grievous error’ by European Commission | Politics | News
Brexit: Michel Barnier insists his ‘mission isn’t over’
Brussels backed down on its threat to override part of the Brexit deal on Northern Ireland after facing brutal condemnation over its threat to impose export controls on life-saving vaccines. The Prime Minister warned European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen of his “grave concerns” over Brussels’ move to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to disrupt the flow of jabs from the bloc into the region on Friday. The move came as the bloc ramped up its row with pharmaceutical giant AstraZeneca over shortfalls in the delivery of jabs.
German newspaper Spiegel reported the EU Commission President was trying to get out of the firing line as anger grows over the EU’s error.
Jörg Meuthen, the co-leader of Germany’s biggest opposition party, also called for her resignation as she needed to “take responsibilty”.
He said: “The EU failed across the board in getting the vaccine” said Meuthen. “While other countries such as Great Britain ordered larger quantities of vaccine months earlier, the EU under Ursula von der Leyen’s leadership failed to take action in good time and then got bogged down hopelessly in contractual clauses with the pharmaceutical companies.”
“Being responsible also means taking responsibility. And this is what Frau von der Leyen should do now. She has caused great damage, not only for Germany and its citizens, but also for the entire EU.
“Admitting this, taking responsibility for one’s own failure and stepping back, would be the only right thing the EU Commission President can do now.”
Brexit live: Ursula von der Leyen has been asked to resign after the EU vaccine debacle
People on social media appeared to agree with the calls for her to step down.
One person said: “Starting to wonder if this mess ends with Von der Leyen having to resign at some point quite soon.”
Another person simply added: “So glad we left.”
READ MORE: EU vaccine row: Barnier warning as bloc backtracks on Brexit clause
“Yesterday, it became clear for the world to see, in its darkest hour”
Ms von der Leyen said she had spoken to Irish Prime Minister Micheal Martin to “agree on a satisfactory way to introduce an export authorisation mechanism” for vaccines.
And she said she had held “constructive talks” with Mr Johnson, as she said: “We agreed on the principle that there should not be restrictions on the export of vaccines by companies where they are fulfilling contractual responsibilities.”
A Number 10 spokesman said: “The UK Government is urgently seeking an explanation from the European Commission about the statements issued by the EU today and assurances as to its intentions.
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“The UK has legally-binding agreements with vaccine suppliers and it would not expect the EU, as a friend and ally, to do anything to disrupt the fulfilment of these contracts.
“The government has reiterated the importance of preserving the benefits of the Belfast/Good Friday agreement and the commitments that have been made to the two communities.”
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Arlene Foster has called for the Northern Ireland protocol to be scrapped
3.03pm update: Arlene Foster demands scrapping of Northern Ireland protocol
Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster has pressed Boris Johnson to replace the Northern Ireland Protocol after the EU sparked a dispute over vaccine controls.
The EU sparked outrage when it invoked Article 16 of the post-Brexit mechanism in a bid to stop the UK importing vaccines from the bloc.
Brussels was forced to back down after furious condemnation from London, Dublin and Belfast.
Mrs Foster described it as an “absolutely incredible act of hostility towards those of us in Northern Ireland”.
She said: “It’s absolutely disgraceful, and I have to say the Prime Minister now needs to act very quickly to deal with the real trade flows that are being disrupted between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.”
The DUP leader reiterated calls for Mr Johnson to enact Article 16 of the protocol over delays being face by hauliers.
She said: “We’ve been asking the PM to deal with the flow problems and indeed, since January 1, we’ve been trying to manage along with the Government the many, many difficulties that have arisen between Great Britain and Northern Ireland and there are actions he could take immediately.
“There is great unrest and great tension within the community here in Northern Ireland so this protocol that was meant to bring about peace and harmony in Northern Ireland is doing quite the reverse.
“The protocol is unworkable, let’s be very clear about that, and we need to see it replaced because otherwise there is going to be real difficulties here in Northern Ireland.”
Europe ‘could have asked for more vaccines’ says Scholz
2.27pm update: French newspaper admits Brexit victory over EU after vaccine debacle – fears end of bloc
On Friday the French newspaper led with the headline, “Vaccination: ‘Brexit 1, Brussels 0’. French news outlet Le Figaro argued that the bloc should have been vaccinating quickly, “to stop the virus when it mutates, circulates faster, and is likely to become more dangerous”.
Le Figaro added: “The shortage of vaccines threatens the twenty-seven while the United Kingdom vaccinates relentlessly.”
EU sources said the 27 member states were to only receive a quarter of the 100 million doses it was expecting from AstraZeneca by the end of March.
This has placed millions of lives at risk and both media and politicians within the bloc are starting to question why the roll-out has been so slow.
Le Figaro explained how “the doses are arriving slower in Europe since other countries around the world have better locked down their supplies”.
The news site added: “Our only way out of the health crisis is moving away by several months.”
1.46pm update: EU blasted for ‘unecessary’ threat to inoke Artcile 16 of the Northern Article protocol
Former Department for Exiting the European Union permanent secretary Philip Rycroft warned the EU’s move to invoke Article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol risks lowering the bar for triggering it.
He told Sky News: “It was wholly disproportionate to what they were seeking to achieve – it was unnecessary. But it bears all the hallmarks for a bureaucracy that is under huge pressure, acting before it was thinking straight.
“This is an indication there will be lots of stress points in our relationship with the EU in the weeks and months ahead. That’s the reality we face now we’re not a member state.”
Asked if it lowers the standard for invoking the clause, he said: “There is of course a risk of that.
“There are concerns in Northern Ireland, there are concerns amongst British politicians, about how the rules are applied.
“This will undoubtedly put wind in the sails of those who say the UK should be applying these safeguard clauses pretty early on.”
EU wants to divide Spain as it protects Catalonia separatists, claims Nogues
1.34pm update: EU plot to dismantle Spain unmasked by Espexit campaigner – bloc’s federal dream crumbles
The stern attack on the European Union came from Espexit campaigner Luis Carlos Nogues.
The SOMOS España leader told Express.co.uk he believes the bloc is trying to divide Spain into 17 federal entities.
The left-wing Spanish politician is fighting for Spain to leave the Brussels club, teaming up with other eurosceptic forces across the EU.
Challenged on the possibility a referendum on Espexit could create further factions within his already divided country, Mr Nogues argued independence from the EU would strengthen the Spanish national identity as a united country.
He said: “That is already happening right now.
“I mean, the European Union is protecting Carles Puigdemont.
“They tried to declare Catalonia as an independent country and they are protecting him.
“So I think that the European Union wants to divide Spain, one way or another in 17 micro states.
“A federal Spain into a federal, United States of Europe.”
12.56pm update: Pro-EU voters abandon bloc after attempt to block UK vaccine
Remainers explained why the EU’s move had resulted in them no longer backing staying in the bloc.
One wrote: “I voted Remain. I came to terms with the Brexit vote.
“I even came to believe that Brexit was an opportunity. But I never completely disavowed my decision in 2016.
“I now do, wholeheartedly. The Brexit side has been proven unequivocally right and just in the past week.”
Another added: “Very much up for a second referendum now on Brexit on Monday.”
Someone else simply wrote: “We will never Rejoin. Ever.”
Brussels demanded doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine that were being manufactured in British plants to
12.14pm update: ‘EU cocked up, big time!’ Ex-minister slams Brussels for threatening stability in Ireland
Julian Smith MP accused the European Union of an “almost Trumpian act” after Brussels threaten to tear up part of Northern Ireland Protocol under moves to impose controls on coronavirus vaccine exports.
The bloc triggered a Brexit clause less than a month after the UK left the bloc as Brussels panicked over the vaccine chaos involving AstraZeneca.
The EU later backed down from its plan to issue controls to Northern Ireland, after triggering uproar across the UK.
The Tory MP told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme: “Years have been spent trying to ensure goods will flow freely and there will be no hard border and last night the EU pulled the emergency cord without following any of the process that are in the protocol if one side wants to suspend it.
“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.
“Above all all of the frameworks that have been set up all of the relationship opportunities that have been set up to get a much more mature relationship between the EU and the UK going forward has to now start working.
“Ironically one of the people working extremely hard to sort this problem out last night on behalf of the Uk was the EU ambassador to London.”
11.18am update: Piers Morgan unleashes stunning attack on ‘arrogant’ EU for ‘uniting Britain about Brexit’
The Good Morning Britain presenter did not hold back as he branded Brussels “a bunch of selfish, ruthless, arrogant twerps”.
And he hit out at the EU’s “shocking antics” after the bloc threatened to override part of the Brexit deal on Northern Ireland amid vaccine supply shortages in a move that sparked widespread condemnation from across the political spectrum.
Former newspaper editor Mr Morgan tweeted: “Congrats to the EU on finally uniting Britain about Brexit.
“With their shocking antics over vaccines, they’ve managed to achieve the impossible and make us all – Leavers AND Remainers – think they’re a bunch of selfish, ruthless, arrogant twerps.”
The document stated that confidential information should not be shared
10.44am update: BBC’s Laura Kuenssberg warns VDL member states are ‘unhappy’ after ‘massive EU mess’
The EU had said it would trigger article 16 to block vaccine exports from the bloc into Northern, but then made a staggering U-turn and said it was “not triggering the safeguard clause”. The article 16 threat has seen widespread condemnation from both within the EU and the UK. Ms Kuenssberg also said this was a “massive EU mess”.
BBC political correspondent Laura Kuenssberg tweeted: “Calm sounding statement tonight doesn’t make tonight’s debacle disappear.
“It was a massive EU mess again.
“Just amazing they let this happen as member states are not happy.”
Her comment was in response to EU president Ursula von der Leyen’s admission that the bloc was stepping back from the brinkmanship showed over the article 16 coronavirus vaccine crisis.
10.36am update: EU BLUNDER: Brussels ‘breaks rules’ by publishing the ‘redacted’ vaccine contract in full
Brussels published its 41-page contract with AstraZeneca on Friday with the insistence it proved vaccines should be sent to the bloc’s 27 nations from UK factories to help with supply issues.
Many paragraphs of the contract were redacted with thick black lines blocking text underneath, despite the bloc welcoming the “transparency” of the document.
However, the blanked out sections of the contract can still be viewed in the bookmarks bar on the left of the online document.
This is despite a non-redacted section of the contract clearly warning against the confidential information being disclosed.
It said: “The Receiving Party shall treat all confidential information as secret and confidential and shall not use, copy or disclose to any third party any confidential information of the Disclosing Party.”
Express.co.uk has approached the European Commission for comment on the published contract.
The EU sparked fury over its vaccine demands this week after trailing behind the UK
10.06am update: EU’s threat towards vaccine exports sparks anger from Remainers admit they would now rethink their referendum vote
One person tweeted: “If the UK were to vote to rejoin the EU today I’d vote no.
“In the past year we’ve seen small flashes of the monster that brexiteers think the EU is but nothing irredeemable.
“Their actions this week have been absolutely unforgivable.”
Another person added: “I am pro EU. We shouldn’t have left.
“The way the EU are dealing with the vaccine situation is however p*g me off. I’m still pro EU, but just becauses the UK is vaccinating at a higher rate than the EU is no reason to bring in article 16.”
And a third said: “Me too, I voted remain, but the UK has prioritised the vaccination programme, approved the Astra Zeneca vaccine weeks ago, the EU approved it today and wants to jump the queue.”
9.05am update: Brexiteer Redwood urges Boris to rethink Withdrawal Agreement after EU proved it will use Irish border as a lever
MP for Wokingham John Redwood demanded an apology from the EU over it’s threat to use the Irish border to get what it wanted.
He wrote on Twitter: “Glad the EU seems to be withdrawing its export ban on vaccines.
“UK government must now ensure smooth trade between NI and GB without EU interference and restrictions.
“Still need more clarity and an apology from the EU who cynically use the Irish border as a lever.”
8.48am update: Farage tells Boris to hold EU to ransom – hand over spare jabs only if Brexit deal fixed
Speaking to Express.co.uk the former MEP and Brexit Party leader said the current circumstances were a chance to make amends with those let down by the EU trade deal.
Brussels is coming under increasing pressure from within its own bloc following a sluggish rollout of its immunisation programme and a shortage of coronavirus vaccines.
Drugs manufacturer AstraZeneca last week told the bloc it would only be able to deliver about a quarter of its promised doses to the EU due to a supply problem.
The lifelong eurosceptic told this website: “Despite all the appalling ways in which they are behaving, the UK is in a relatively fortunate position that has more vaccine than it can use.
“Not necessarily in a boastful way, but we should use this to our national advantage.”
8.11am update: EU vaccine row: Barnier warning as bloc backtracks on Brexit clause – ‘Unhealthy’
EU Chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier urged the EU to take a step back from the row with Britain over coronavirus vaccine shortages in Europe.
The move would have stopped the unhindered supply of coronavirus jabs from the bloc into the UK.
The EU’s intentions were to prevent Northern Ireland from being used as a door to move vaccines from mainland Europe to Britain.
Many countries in Europe have struggled to vaccinate their populations as rapidly as the UK has done in recent months.
He said: “We are facing an extraordinarily serious crisis, which is creating a lot of suffering, which is causing a lot of deaths in the UK, in France, in Germany, everywhere.
“And I believe that we must face this crisis with responsibility, certainly not with the spirit of one upmanship or unhealthy competition.”