Speaking about the vaccine rollout, Rees-Mogg said it was Brexit that allowed us to “move so quickly”.
But actually, the UK had already put into law its own route for authorising vaccines before Brexit took effect, meaning we did not have to rely on the European Medicines Agency. Even if we were still a member of the EU, the UK regulator would have been able to take this decision on its own because EU law already allowed it. The EU legislation took effect in the UK in 2012, long before Brexit was on the cards.
A UK government press release from 23 November 2020 spelt this out in terms. “If a suitable COVID-19 vaccine candidate, […] becomes available before the end of the transition period, EU legislation which we have implemented via Regulation 174 of the Human Medicines Regulations allows the MHRA to temporarily authorise the supply of a medicine or vaccine, based on public health need.”
Britain was still bound by the EMA regulations when the vaccine rollout began in December 2020.
The head of the MHRA, June Raine, clarified the situation when she said: “we have been able to authorise the supply of this vaccine using provisions under European Law which exist until 1st of January.”
Rees-Mogg’s claim is false. This false claim remains on the Hansard record in defiance of the Ministerial Code.
We approached Mr Rees-Mogg’s office and the Cabinet Office for comment, but received no reply.