The Covid inquiry has partially blamed Brexit for the country’s failure to prepare for a pandemic. On the opening day of the inquiry, Hugo Keith KC, counsel to the inquiry, said that preparing for Brexit “crowded out and prevented” the work that was needed to improve pandemic preparedness.
When the inquiry’s findings were brought up on BBC’s politics live, Conservative MP Miriam Cates said she would “dispute that,” adding that “the vaccine rollout was a clear example of how being out of the EU actually helped us.”
The claim made by Ms Cates has been repeatedly made by other Conservative ministers, including former Prime Minister Boris Johnson (See here, here and here) and current Prime Minister Rishi Sunak (see here).
Until the 1st of January 2021, the UK was in a transition period within the EU. It was, at the time, still a member of the EU’s single market and of the European Medical Agency (EMA). Throughout this transition period, the UK and its medical agencies operated under EMA rules.
The UK’s vaccines were procured whilst still a member of the single market and the EMA. Further, the UK’s early rollout was secured by the use of Regulation 174, an EU provision allowing member states to bypass the authorisation of the EMA and issue their own medicines.
The UK’s vaccine rollout had nothing to do with Brexit. Vaccines were procured whilst the UK was still a member of the single market and the EMA. The vaccine rollout was approved under an EU regulation which was available to all EU member states. Miriam Cates was wrong to say that the UK was able to enact its vaccine rollout due to Brexit, as the UK was still in a transition period and operating under EU rules at the time when vaccinations were procured and authorised.
Ms Cates was repeating one of Boris Johnson’s favourite lies. She was misleading BBC viewers.
We emailed Miriam Cates’ parliamentary office offering her the chance to respond. The email was received, but no reply.