The EU has admitted making a mistake in its vaccine row with the UK, according to Michael Gove.
The Cabinet Office minister said the bloc acknowledged its error in triggering article 16 in a bid to control the export of vaccines from Europe to Northern Ireland.
However, Mr Gove added that the EU has now ‘stepped back’ from this action, which he claimed would have reimposed a border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.
It comes after the EU threatened to stop vaccine exports to the UK in response to AstraZeneca delivering fewer jabs to the bloc than expected.
Speaking to Sky News, Mr Gove said: “I think the EU recognise they made a mistake in triggering article 16 which would have meant the reimposition of a border on the island or Ireland.
“But now the EU have stepped back – and they’ve stepped back following clear conversations between the Prime Minister and EU Commission President.
“They’ve recognised they have made a mistake.”
Products, including vaccines, can be exported from the EU to Northern Ireland without checks following Brexit.
Under article 16 of the Northern Ireland protocol, the EU and UK can suspend parts of the deal if either side thinks it is causing ‘economic, societal or environmental difficulties’.
The EU planned to exercise this article to prevent Northern Ireland being used as a ‘vaccine backdoor’ to Britain.
Britain is far ahead of Europe in its vaccination programme, administering an average of 12.5 doses per 100 people, compared with 2.3 in the EU.
As of 4pm this afternoon, 8.3 million people have received their first doses in the UK, with 480,432 people fully vaccinated.
Mr Gove added that the UK government’s first priority was to vaccinate Britain’s population and it expected vaccine contracts to be honoured.
He also said the country is on track to meet its target of administering 15 million vaccine doses by February 15.