Blair says EU was very foolish over NI vaccine move


Tony Blair has criticised the European Union's short-lived move to override the Brexit deal on Northern Ireland under its vaccine export controls as a "very foolish" move that jeopardised the peace process.

The former prime minister, a vocal supporter of the UK remaining in the bloc, said Brussels' action in triggering Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol to control the movement of coronavirus 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.

Asked if the move was irresponsible, the Labour grandee 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."

Mr Blair also said there is a "very strong case" for teachers to be vaccinated before schools are reopened to all students in England, which the Government has earmarked for March 8.

The move would require a delay for some older people to receive the jabs, but it is not suggested it starts before the top four priority groups are vaccinated, which is aimed for mid-February.

"Well, I am suggesting I would push back," Mr Blair, 67, said.

"If it's 500,000 people it is two days of vaccination.

"I think that is a reasonable thing to do in these circumstances if it helps allow you to get the schools back sooner."