Sammy Wilson slams BBC over Brexit coverage
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The former minister of finance in the Northern Ireland Assembly commented in the Newsletter that because the UK is reportedly willing to send millions of vaccine doses to Ireland, it should be clear that Britain “is Ireland’s true friend”. Mr Wilson was speaking following a Sunday Times report that a scheme is being planned to “offer 3.7 million Covid jabs to Ireland”. The Sunday Times quoted an anonymous “cabinet source” close to the Government, and said this move would be the first time the UK exported vaccines to an EU nation.
Mr Wilson said that the UK’s move to help Dublin with a shipment of millions of vaccines should make them question who their genuine friends are.
Mr Wilson said: “First of all, it’s not in our interests to have coronavirus rampant in the Irish Republic due to the incompetence of the EU.
“Secondly, despite the way in which the Irish Republic has treated Britain throughout the negotiations with the EU, and it continues to treat Britain in the most despicable way, we aren’t churlish enough to withhold help if it’s available.
“The third thing is that it’ll be interesting to see whether or not the EU, not wanting to have its own ineptitude exposed, tries to find some lame excuse for refusing to allow Ireland to take the vaccine from the UK.
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“My message to the Irish leadership is, first of all, recognise your real friends are Britain, your real market is Britain, the country that you depend upon is Britain, not the EU.
“Don’t allow yourself to be brow-beaten by the EU, who are likely to use you in pursuit of their wider battle with the UK.
“And recognise that despite the abominable way which you have treated the UK and Northern Ireland in particular over the protocol, unionists in Northern Ireland are bigger than some of the EU-blinded politicians in the Irish Republic”.
However, the bloc may see this offer as a move by the UK to undermine its own centralised vaccine distribution effort.
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The UK is winning the race of vaccinating its citizens, leaving the Republic of Ireland and the rest of the EU far behind.
The First Minister of Northern Ireland, Arlene Foster, has said that the UK’s apparent offer of sharing their jabs with the Irish Republic is “a runner”.
She said: “I think it’s the right thing that should happen.
“I think it’s a very practical thing to do and I think it should happen and hopefully it will.”
A spokesperson for the Irish Government told the Newsletter: “The UK has previously indicated that, once it has achieved a high level of vaccination of its own population, it would consider sharing vaccines with other countries.
“We are not aware of any specific plans to share vaccines with Ireland at this stage.
“Ireland and the UK government maintain close contact across all matters of common interest.”
Speaking about the UK’s plan the Irish foreign minister Simon Coveney said: “There isn’t an offer that I’m aware of, or that the Government’s aware of, from the UK.
“Of course, if there was we’d be very interested in talking to the British Government about that.
“Let’s look at the actual numbers here in terms of what’s likely and when.
“Currently, 55 percent of UK adults have received their first jab, less than 6 percent of adults in the UK have received their second jab, so there are tens of millions of people still to get their first jab in the UK.
“There may well be excess vaccines at some point in the future but I don’t think we’re realistically looking at that for many, many weeks yet.”
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