James Cleverly: Brexit not the reason for Britain’s vaccine speed

7 December 2020, 11:17

By Joe Cook

The foreign office minister has told LBC the UK is not at the forefront of vaccine rollout because of Brexit, contradicting previous comments from ministers.

James Cleverly also stressed the “vaccine is an international effort absolutely international effort, both at individual, company and governmental level”.

His comments come after Education Secretary Gavin Williamson drew criticism last week for telling LBC the reason the UK was first in the world to approve a Covid vaccine, ahead of places like the EU and the US, is because "we're a much better country."

Asked by LBC’s Nick Ferrari whether Brexit was the reason why Britain was “at the forefront” of vaccine rollout, Mr Cleverly today gave a clear: “No”.

He added: “What we have seen, through our approvals process, is that the UK is an innovative, adaptable, agile country.

“This will be very much part of our offer and pitch to the world in the future, once we have got through this transition period.”

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The comments follow Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s claims that Brexit allowed the UK to approve a vaccine more quickly than other EU countries.

Jacob Rees-Moog, leader of the House of Commons, also tweeted after the vaccine announcement: "We could only approve this vaccine so quickly because we have left the EU."

However, Mr Cleverly’s comments to Nick Ferrari at Breakfast support those from the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

MHRA chief executive, Dr June Raine, told a press conference Brexit was not a factor, as “we have been able to authorise the supply of this vaccine using provisions under European law, which exist until 1 January".

There are also concerns that the vaccine rollout could be hindered by chaos at the ports when the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.

However, Mr Cleverly told LBC he has “no doubt, no doubt at all” that the government’s prioritisation of medicines at ports will allow access “to that vaccine as soon as it becomes available”.

“The government have allocated over £700 million specifically for border arrangements to facilitate the importation of the vaccine,” he explained.

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Dr Raine, from the MHRA, also said on Monday that they "fully prepared for any possible outcome" in relation to Brexit.