In the House of Commons, Boris Johnson said to Keir Starmer: “We must never forget that if we had followed the advice of the right hon. and learned Gentleman we would have stayed in the European Medicines Agency and would never have had the vaccine roll-out at all.”
Even if we were still a member of the EU, the UK regulator would have been able to authorise the vaccine roll out on its own because EU law already allows it. This 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.”
This claim from Johnson is false. Other examples of Johnson or his ministers making similar false claims can be found here, here, here, here and here.
The Prime Minister’s false statement remains on the Commons record in defiance of the Ministerial Code.