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UK minister says EU recognises it 'made a mistake' on safeguard clause

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Britain's Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove walks back into Downing Street in London.
Britain's Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster Michael Gove walks back into Downing Street in London.   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Matt Dunham
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UK Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said the EU "made a mistake" in potentially invoking Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol by placing export controls on coronavirus vaccines.

Gove said he had spoken to Commission vice president Maros Sefcovic and they agreed the UK and EU needed a "reset" of relations and to put the people of Northern Ireland first.

People in Northern Ireland were "bewildered by the step", Gove said, in remarks that came a day after the EU clarified the new export regulation would not impact Northern Ireland, following an uproar.

"They didn't consult us, they didn't consult our friends in Dublin and they united parties in Northern Ireland from Sinn Féin on one side to the DUP on the other in condemnation," he added.

Northern Ireland First Minister Arlene Foster had said the EU of committed “a hostile and aggressive act” that would put a "hard border" on the island of Ireland.

The Northern Ireland protocol prevents there being checks at the Irish border with Northern Ireland as it remains in the single market. Article 16, however, allows either side to unilaterally override the protocol.

In a tweet on Saturday, Sefcovic said he had agreed with Gove to "making sure the Protocol works for the people of Northern Ireland, protecting gains of the peace process and avoiding disruption to everyday lives."

Gove and Sefcovic said they were "jointly committed to redoubling our efforts to address outstanding issues."