The EU has stepped back from threats of a Northern Ireland vaccine blockade after widespread fury.
It comes after the bloc invoked a part of the Northern Ireland Protocol in an attempt to stop vaccines made in the EU from getting into the UK through the back door.
The protocol, which is part of the Brexit deal, allows goods from the EU to be exported to Northern Ireland without checks.
However, the EU triggered Article 16 of the protocol tonight to slap temporary export controls on vaccines sent to Northern Ireland.
But this evening, it confirmed the clause would not be triggered.
A statement revoking the decision confirmed: “In the process of finalization of this measure, the Commission will ensure that the Ireland / Northern Ireland Protocol is unaffected. The Commission is not triggering the safeguard clause.
“Should transits of vaccines and active substances toward third countries be abused to circumvent the effects of the authorization system, the EU will consider using all the instruments at its disposal.
“In the process of finalizing the document, the Commission will also be fine-tuning the decision-making process under the implementing regulation.
“The final version of the implementing regulation will be published following its adoption tomorrow.”
Northern Ireland’s First Minister Arlene Foster described the move as an “incredible act of hostility” and said she has tonight spoken to Boris Johnson and Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove on the issue.
Irish premier Micheal Martin spoke to European Commission President Ursula Von Der Leyen to express his concerns, his spokesman said.
Downing Street has said it would not expect its “friend and ally” EU to disrupt its contracts with vaccine suppliers.
A spokesperson for Number 10 said tonight: “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.
“The U.K. 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 fulfillment of these contracts.
“The U.K. 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.”
Meanwhile the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, tonight accused the EU, which he said was inspired by Christian social teaching, of “undercutting its basic ethics”.
He tweeted tonight: “The European Union was originally inspired by Christian social teaching – at the heart of which is solidarity.
“Seeking to control the export of vaccines undercuts the EU’s basic ethics. They need to work together with others.”
It comes after Johnson & Johnson has said its single-dose vaccine is 66% effective in preventing Covid-19 globally.
The single-shot vaccine, which has been developed by Johnson & Johnson’s pharmaceutical arm Janssen, is 66% effective overall at preventing moderate to severe Covid-19 28 days after vaccination.
It said its vaccine was 72% effective in preventing Covid-19 in the United States but a lower rate of 66% was observed globally in the large trial conducted across three continents and against multiple variants.
The firm said the jab was 85% effective in preventing severe disease “and demonstrated complete protection against Covid-19-related hospitalization and death as of day 28”.
It said the jab worked across multiple variants of coronavirus, including the South African variant which has been worrying scientists.
The UK has secured 30 million doses of the jab to roll out if approved by regulators, with the option of millions more.
Responding to the news about the successful trial of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, Health Secretary Matt Hancock tweeted: “This is yet more good news from Janssen on vaccines.
“If this jab is approved this could significantly bolster our vaccination program, especially as a single-dose vaccine.