Wednesday, 31 March 2021
Post-European Council Meeting: Statements
In regard to what Deputy O'Donoghue said about Ireland not being mentioned in the conclusions - or minutes, as the Deputy calls them - of the European Council, he should look back at all the conclusions of previous Council meetings and all the records of discussions at the General Affairs Council and in the European Parliament, particularly since Brexit. I honestly think he will find that no country has been mentioned more than Ireland in terms of the effects of Brexit. I urge him to look back at all the other Council conclusions and all the other discussions that have taken place. Our officials have been working hard for us on a broad range of issues.
I agree with some of the points raised by the Deputy. Brexit has brought huge inconveniences. However, the problem is not the European Union or the Government. The problem is the fact of Brexit. We did not decide that there should be customs barriers with Britain. Britain decided to leave the Single Market, the customs union and the European Union. It does not want to align with the standards for our products. In the case of cabotage, for example, an absolutely huge effort was undertaken by our officials to negotiate what has been negotiated in that area. There are huge efforts under way by officials and Ministers to make sure the protocol for Northern Ireland is implemented. There is a huge effort being made to resolve some of the issues referred to by Deputy Flaherty. The problem is Brexit. The problem is that our nearest neighbour and trading partner has left the European Union. We have been working really hard over the past number of years, on a cross-party basis, to make sure the negative effects of that are ameliorated to the greatest extent possible. However, we cannot bring back what we had before because Britain, in its wisdom, although I do not think it was very wise, decided to leave the Union.
A number of speakers, including Deputies Cathal Crowe, Haughey, Brendan Smith, McNamara, Howlin and O'Donnell, raised the issue of vaccine supply. In regard to the projections for quarter 2, which is starting this week, Deputies should note that approximately 100 million doses have been delivered to EU member states up to now. That is almost on target, as are our own figures. We have managed to get 95% of the delivered vaccines into people's arms within a week. That has been a huge challenge. In the case of Moderna, as I understand it, it is necessary to hold back vaccine for the second dose. We are not doing that with the other vaccines. The projection for quarter 2 is that 360 million vaccines will be delivered on a European basis. That is made up of 200 million Pfizer vaccines, 35 million Moderna vaccines, 70 million AstraZeneca vaccines - that company has contracted to deliver significantly more than that - and 55 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines. It is important to note that the latter is a single-dose vaccine. I understand that 55 million Johnson & Johnson vaccines are equivalent to 110 million doses of a different vaccine. The leaders agreed at the European Council that the pro ratasystem that has been implemented for the distribution of vaccines will continue. There have been various media reports on how we will benefit from that. There is no question but that deliveries are ramping up. Deputy Ó Murchú mentioned Commissioner Thierry Breton and the work he is doing in this area. There is a huge effort under way and we are beginning to see the fruits of that.
Before I move on to digital green certificates, I want to put some matters on the record.