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James O’Brien hits out at accusations Remainers are defending EU in vaccine row

James O'Brien said the EU's decision to impose Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol had been "downright dangerous" - Credit: LBC, Twitter

James O’Brien has hit out at critics who have said Remainers are defending the EU’s decision to impose a hard border on the island of Ireland, simply because they are supporters of the bloc.

O’Brien took some time during his show on LBC radio to address accusations that Remainers have failed to condemn the EU over its decision to impose Article 16 of the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Article 16 is intended to be used when the protocol is unexpectedly leading to serious “economic, societal or environmental difficulties”. Although Brussels had invoked the article in a bid to stop AstraZeneca vaccines produced in the EU from entering Britain via Northern Ireland, it quickly rescinded the order following an uproar from London, Belfast, and Dublin, as well as from within the EU.

MORE: Pro-EU campaigner hits back at Brexiteers over vaccines debate

O’Brien, a well-known proponent of the Remain camp, said the EU’s actions had been “downright dangerous”.

“Those of us who remain quite rightly persuaded that leaving the European Union is going to cause us all manner of problems have absolutely no problem whatsoever in saying on Friday night, Ursula von de Leyen…behaved in a way that is almost beyond belief,” he said.

“Not just stupid but downright dangerous and displaying almost as much ignorance in regards for the Good Friday Agreement and customs union as Jacob Rees-Mogg demonstrated on this programme.”

O’Brien took umbrage at people who said Remainers were going to avoid criticising von der Leyen’s actions because they were supporters of the EU.

“You wake up on Saturday morning as one of the country’s few prominent Remainers and apparently you’re expected to defend Ursula von de Leyen,” O’Brien said, adding: “You’re expected to try and stick up for the European Commission’s absolute disaster of a flirtation with putting a hard border on the island of Ireland.

“The idea that anybody would think anybody else would blindly defend complete idiocy is, of course, a consequence of people blindly defending complete idiocy.”

He continued: “It’s projection in its purest form: I will defend Boris Johnson even as our death toll becomes the highest in the world by some measures. Therefore people who think Brexit is a bad idea are going to defend Ursula von de Leyen in the exact same way even if she does something almost beyond belief stupid.

“It doesn’t work like that.”

Taking to Twitter, O’Brien wrote: “I must confess to being mildly irritated by the widespread suggestion that opposing Brexit would somehow necessitate seeing the EU Commission’s conduct last Friday as anything other than outrageous, dangerous and profoundly wrong. #footballification.”

Twitter users rallied behind him. One user posted: “Yes he’s right. Only people prepared to defend idiocy could imagine that the rest of us would defend idiocy. EU Commission behaved like idiots last week, admitted their mistake, owned it and put it right. An object lesson in behaving like grown-ups.”

Another said: “Well said… every position should and usually does have its exceptions.”

Ian Crawford quipped: “Spoken like a true Brexiteer… Proud to have you on board James, you tell ’em.”